Wednesday 2 January 2019

A public information Broadcast for the Conservative Councillors of Barnet

On the 18th December, Barnet Council issued a press release concerning the issues with Bin collections which included the following statement from the leader of the council:

The council recently implemented a complete reorganisation of its bin collections service, which had led to delays in some areas. Residents are reminded to leave their bins at the boundary of their property should there be any delays in their rubbish being taken away.
Councillor Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, said: “I would like to thank our residents for bearing with us this year as we introduced new collection rounds. Our bin crews have been working long hours, and during weekends, to keep the borough’s collections on track.
“There will always be some hiccups during a widespread reorganisation of this nature. There have been some serious difficulties that are at last now beginning to settle. There is still work that needs to be done, but our bin collections will return to their usual first-class level. We apologise for any inconvenience. Please continue to bear with us as we implement these long-term improvements to the efficiency of Barnet’s bin collections.”
Further to this, Mill Hill Councillor John Hart emailed a resident about the issues saying
The changeover to a same-day collection, ie all three colour bins being collected on a single day in the week, was probably rather ambitious and has taken time to settle in. It is meant to save us (you and me) about £750,000 a year, so worth the effort.It is not the prelude to fortnightly collections.When one considers that Barnet now has just over 380,000 inhabitants, the collections are a major undertaking, as large as those of a big town, bigger than York or Bristol for example. Glitches occur.
I've received reports of other residents being told by Conservative Councillors that the Bin Fiasco is down to "teething problems" with new rounds. As the local Conservative administration are in charge of this mess, it is clearly in their interests to play the whole thing down.

On the 22nd of November, when it first started to become clear exactly what the extent of the issues were, I submitted a freedom of information request to ascertain the full extent of the problems

1. Please can you provide a complete list of roads in Barnet where some/all residents did not have a bin collection at all in the weeks as follows

1) 5-11 November 2018
2) 12-18 November 2018

2. Please can you provide the number of complaints received by Barnet Council concerning bin collections since 5th November 2018

On the final day before the statuatory deadline for a response, I emailed a reminder to the Council. I got the following response.

Dear Mr. Tichborne

I am sorry that your request has not been answered. We will establish what has gone wrong but in the meantime I have logged and backdated it to 22 November when it was sent and asked for it to be treated as a priority.

Kind regards

Chris Lloyd
Information Management Officer

Given the nature of the problem, my assumption was that the council would be closely monitoring the situation, and a full log of all missed residences would have been kept. I would also have assumed that the Leadership of the Council would have wanted to have information regarding the number of complaints from residents.

Furthermore, if I had been elected as a Councillor for Mill Hill, instead of Mr Hart, I would have been demanding a weekly update from the Council on all roads in my ward and all complaints. I would have assumed councillors in all wards would be doing the same. Furthermore I would have then made time to visit the council depot, speak to crews and find out why the roads in my ward were being missed and what could be done.

For the purposes of clarity, let us have a look at the excuses given by Mr Hart and his colleagues and the terminology used. Mr Hart is an expert in languages, he used to lecture at a Polytechnic on the subject, so he should know.

So lets start with what a glitch is, according to the Oxford dictionary.



  • 1A sudden, usually temporary malfunction or fault of equipment.
    ‘a draft version was lost in a computer glitch’
    1.  An unexpected setback.
      ‘the only glitch in his year is failing to qualify for the Masters’
    2. Astronomy A brief irregularity in the rotation of a pulsar.
The bin cock up is clearly not a Glitch. It was not unexpected as The Barnet Eye warned early in October of the forthcoming issues, after discussing this with Barnet Council staff. It is not temporary as it has been happening continually since November. This was entirely foreseeable and the what service there is, is only being maintained by staff working huge amounts of overtime. We wonder just how much of the savings Mr Hart alleged would be made will be achieved once the overtime payments to staff are taken into account.

As to the suggestion that this is teething problems.

Teething troubles

(also teething problems)


  • Short-term problems that occur in the early stages of a new project.
    ‘the inevitable teething troubles of a new system’
The problems do not appear to be short term. They have been going on for three months. There appears to be no end in sight and the system is only just about being held together by huge amounts of staff overtime.

The most ominous aspect to all of this is that this overtime has to be paid for and this means that the Council budget, which was already under pressure is likely to go into melt down when all of this is added in. A senior council officer recently told me, strictly off the record, that the whole system of bin collections is now unsustainable. They either need a whole load of new staff and equipment or they need to switch to fortnightly collections. Furthermore they said that the leadership of the council are in a state of denial about this. 

Unlike the Leader of The Council and Cllr Hart, I speak to many council employees on a social level, in the local pubs and at my studios, where some use the facilities. What they are telling me is quite disturbing. The finances at Barnet Council are far worse than the public are aware of. Unless central government bales them out or there are savage cuts to key services, they will simply be unable to pay many of the bills. By 2021-22 the council is likely to be technically insolvent. When this happens, we may find that there are no bin collections at all. The council has already identified black holes in their accounts of tens of millions of pounds. It is time for the Barnet Conservatives to start telling the people who elected them the truth about the state of the council and take responsibility for the mess they created. 

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