Householders at Poole in Dorset will have to wait more than a month for some rubbish to be collected. The Borough of Poole said today that residents who missed a recycling collection on 8 December because of bad weather will have to wait until next Wednesday, the 12 January, before the bin lorries arrive.
A spokeswoman for the council said that they cancelled a week of collections before Christmas amidst fears about the health and safety of their employees in the icy conditions. Because the collection teams work on bank holidays through the year they don't work over the holiday period.
Collections are now back to normal, but that will mean some weekly refuse collections from the 15 December are only being collected today. Blue and Black recycling bins are on a fortnightly collection and will be the last to get back to normal.
No extra collections are being arranged, but residents are being encouraged to take waste to the Nuffield household recycling centre and the council website states: "Following the major disruption to many scheduled collections, crews will take a reasonable amount of bagged waste alongside bins."
By contrast, councils in Hampshire say there have been few delays.
In Portsmouth Cllr Eleanor Scott, the City Council's Cabinet Member for Environment and Community Safety, said: "Collections are running as planned, and did so over the whole Christmas period. Black sack and recycling collections happened on their normal days, and recycling banks have been emptied as usual.
"Residents quite rightly expect basic services like rubbish collection to be reliable, and I know our staff and our contractors work very hard to provide a good service."
In Surrey collection staff worked extra hours to deal with the backlog. Leader of Guildford Borough Council Cllr Tony Rooth said: "We took an early decision that it would not be acceptable for our residents to keep missing collections at such a critical time of the year."
"We visit nearly 18,000 properties and collect approximately 175 tonnes of recycling and refuse every day. So we decided to deploy extra resources to clear any backlog and get our services back to normal as quickly as possible. This included using five extra vehicles and their crew members to make additional collections all of last week, including collection on two bank holidays.
Rubbish can be a hot political topic. The Local Government Minister Bob Neill has written to local councils to ask them to improve their service. Here's some of his message:
"It is clear that there is widespread public concern at the extent of the disruption to collections. It is particularly troubling that some press reports could appear to suggest a level of complacency and a failure to address the seriousness of the issues.
"Families who have been told to stockpile their rotting refuse inside their own homes by councils are entitled to wonder if their council views the rubbish collection as just a favour, not a right. And the public deserve a better answer than, 'this is not a major problem'."
But Labour's Shadow Local Government Minister Chris Williamson said: "Of course there can never be any excuse for councils failing to collect people's rubbish for four weeks.
"The Government needs to be honest and admit that the only 'savage cuts to weekly rubbish collections' are the ones to come in the next few years as a result of this government's unfair frontloaded cuts to local council budgets."
And we've heard reports of similar situations in other councils across the South. Philip Clark from South Nutfield in Surrey contacted us to say:
Our bins were finally collected this morning after five weeks. I can understand with the bad weather we experienced that the rubbish was not collected, but after that there was no excuse. On our small village road there was a pile of over 100 bin bags, every house had piles of rubbish to be collected. When the refuse collectors came one day, they were overheard saying the couldn't be bother to collect on our road. Not good enough for the high council tax we pay in our area.
The head of environmental and consumer protection at the Brough of Poole, Shaun Robson, said: "We appreciate that this is not ideal, particularly given the time of year and extra household waste and recycling generated as a result."
He said during the icy weather the rounds were largely inaccessible, although waste was collected from communal blocks.
"We are advising residents that they can leave a reasonable amount of extra bags of rubbish and recycling with their next scheduled collection."
What's happening where you live? Have the binmen and women been offering service above the statutory requirement in this icy weather, or does someone need to pull their finger out?