Reported in The Sunday Times last week …
The policy of councils across Britain of limiting households to one wheelie bin each may have to change after an official complaint by a solicitor exasperated at having to make regular trips to his local rubbish tip. The local government ombudsman has ruled in favour of Roger Houlker, who has fought a 2½ year battle against Congleton borough council to be given a second bin for his six-bedroom Cheshire home.
The ombudsman, Anne Seex (now there's a name to conjure with! And shouldn't she be called the "ombudswoman", or even the "ombudsperson"?- GOS), found the council guilty of "maladministration with injustice" for failing to collect all his waste and ordered it to review its policy. She also said she had "reservations" about the authority's refusal to collect additional bags of waste left beside wheelie bins.
While waiting for his bin to be emptied, Houlker had to deal with vermin ripping open black bags used to hold extra waste in his garden and he made regular 12-mile trips to take them to a dump because dustmen would only take waste from his one 240-litre bin. Congleton council insisted the bin should have been enough for him, his wife Julie and their three children.
The ruling could lead to a flood of appeals against councils with similar one-bin-per-house rules.
Houlker, who lives in the village of Swettenham, first complained to the council in February 2006. He said he was doing all he could to recycle and claimed the council had a legal duty to pick up the extra waste. In December 2007 Houlker complained to the ombudsman that he was being forced to take waste to the tip in his car.
In addition to telling the council to review its policy, Seex has said Houlker should be given £250 for his "time, trouble and costs" in taking his own bin bags to the tip.
A spokesman for the environment department said: "As quoted in the ombudsman's report, it is hard to see how the authority can justify refusing to collect waste from a second bin especially where the resident is offering to pay for the additional receptacle."
Congleton council confirmed it was reviewing its policies.
The GOS says: Needless to say the holier-than-thou green Nazis among the readership of the Sunday Times leaped in with their worthless, self-satisfied preaching. Claire from Bradford said "Rather than fighting a prolonged battle with his council, Houlker would have done much better to work on cutting down the amount of waste his family produces. Plenty of similar-sized families manage with one bin, by recycling packaging and composting food waste," while Esme from Rugby wrote "I am married with two children and a pet, our wheelie bin is only ever half full. Do extra bedrooms and a good income generate more waste or is the guy just too lazy to recycle? As for being given money for his time and trouble taking things to the tip!?!?"
In fact, Claire and Esme, your knee-jerk PC comments are entirely beside the point. While we all accept a certain amount of obligation to recycle, local authorities have obligations too. One of them is to take our rubbish away.
It's not their place to enforce their own ideas about how much rubbish we should produce, because that's not what we pay them for. It's not their place to lecture us about what we should throw away and what we should re-use, because we don't pay them for that either.
We all pay through the nose to keep these petty officials in their comfortable jobs. If any of us suddenly decide to reduce our financial contributions, they're pretty quick to invoke the law and haul OAPs before the magistrates - some have even been sent to prison. But they seem to think it's OK for them to suddenly reduce or limit the service they're prepared to provide -"terribly sorry, council tax payers, but it's a bit expensive to take all your rubbish away so we're only going to take half of it. Hope that's OK. If it isn't, tough!"
You have to wonder where this high-handed attitude will end, don't you? How long will it be before the local bus company suddenly decides to stop all its buses halfway because it's healthier for us to walk?
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