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Central government and local government lock horns over bin collection

5 January 2011

3:55 PM

5 January 2011

3:55 PM

It seems that Cardinal Walter Kasper was right: parts of Britain are suggestive of the Third World. The Sun has been leading the tally-ho against council leaders in Exeter and Birmingham, who have allowed rubbish to lie in
the streets for more than a month. And today, Local Government Minister Bob Neil joined (£) the fray, condemning
councils for failing to deliver ‘one of the most basic services’. (He also mentioned executive pay, again.)

Recalcitrant councils have issued a plethora of meteorological excuses, but these are mostly a distraction. Many councils managed to remove rubbish over Christmas; David Cameron commended them for their
efforts. Others remained inert on grounds of health and safety; thereby creating a far greater health and safety risk: widespread rat infestations, read Samuel Pepys on the associated dangers. The more
enterprising refuseniks invoked the Big Society and told residents to jump in the hatchback, brave the ice and dump 4 weeks of refuse at the local tip. And still the back-log continues:
‘insufficient resources’ is the cry. In truth, this looks like the first tussle between central government and local government over cumulative spending cuts of 27 percent,
downscaled executive pay and people empowerment.

Bin collection is just one Improvised Anti-Pickles Device. Coming to a neighbourhood near you: perennially broken pedestrian crossing lights, damaged street lighting and filthy pavements; to say
nothing of needless job losses among council staff and industrial action (£).

These tactics are far from subtle, but they may prove effective. Sooner or later, the public’s patience will be spent and it is only natural to blame the national government – witness the
Winter of Discontent. The coalition will need considerable resolve to resist determined councillors, of all political persuasions, and hope that residents use the accountability mechanisms they
have been given in the Localism

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