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North Somerset Council (18 003 904)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 20 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains the Council has not provided a reliable bin collection service and stopped him from reporting missed collections. This has caused Mr B considerable frustration. The Ombudsman finds the Council at fault. The Council should monitor Mr B’s bin collection and review its procedure for residents to report missed collections.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complains:
    • the Council has not provided a reliable bin collection service;
    • rubbish is left on the street;
    • residents cannot report missed bin collections; and
    • he has not received a response to his complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. Where an individual, organisation or private company is providing services on behalf of a council, we can investigate complaints about the actions of these providers. (Local Government Act 1974, section 25(7), as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered:
    • Mr B’s complaint and the information he provided;
    • documents supplied by the Council;
    • relevant legislation and guidelines; and
    • the Council’s policies and procedures.
    • The Council and Mr B’s comments on a draft decision.

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What I found

  1. The Council has a legal duty to collect household waste and recyclable waste. (Environmental Protection Act 1990, sections 45(1) and 45A).
  2. The Council can contract out their waste collection service. When a council commissions another organisation to provide services on its behalf it remains responsible for those services.

Local Policies and Procedures

  1. When a resident logs a missed bin collection with the Council, a worksheet is produced. The provider has strict service standards to meet to get the missed collection completed. If the missed collection worksheet is created before midday, the provider must collect the bin before the end of the day. If the worksheet is created after midday, the provider must collect the bin before midday the following day.
  2. Residents can report a missed collection either by phone or online.
  3. The Council aim to reply to stage one complaints within 10 working days and stage 2 complaints within 17 working days.

What happened

  1. The Council accept Mr B did not get a satisfactory bin collection service between January 2017 and June 2018. Between May 2017 and August 2018, the Council recorded 16 missed collections for Mr B.
  2. The Council say problems occurred because it moved to a new Kerbside Collection and Household Waste Recycling Centre provider. The Council changed provider because kerbside collection vehicles were often breaking down leading to missed collections. The Council changed provider in March 2017.
  3. In February 2018, Mr B complained to the Council he had been waiting for 8 days for his bin to be collected. The Council explained the reason for the missed collection and arranged for collections to be monitored.
  4. In March 2018, Mr B complained to the Council because his recycling and household waste bin were not collected and he could not report it.
  5. The Council said when the new provider started, it struggled to meet the work load. The Council said this was because kerb collection rounds were imbalanced. In June 2018, the Council and the provider re-routed the kerb collection rounds to make the service more efficient.
  6. The Council accepts it took several months to resolve the problems that arose from changing collection routes. There were a high number of missed collections and complaints reported. The Council said this was why it took longer to investigate and respond to Mr B than normally expected.
  7. In June 2018, Mr B complained to the Council about missed collections and difficulties he had reporting these.
  8. Mr B’s collection was put on the providers ‘hot spot’ list in July 2018. This is a list of properties the provider must not miss again. The Council say Mr B’s bin collection has not been missed since.
  9. The new provider, use personal digital assistants (PDAs) to record information about rounds, including missed collections. There was a problem when crews failed to close rounds on their PDAs because this stopped residents from reporting missed collections. The Council accepted there were difficulties with crews using the PDAs correctly and re-training was subsequently put in place.
  10. The Council responded to Mr B’s complaint in October 2018. The Council accepts it took longer than normally expected to investigate and respond to Mr B’s complaint.
  11. In February 2019, Mr B contacted the Ombudsman to say the provider had not collected his bin and he could not report it.

Analysis

  1. The Council has not provided a reliable bin collection service for Mr B. When collections were missed, its reporting procedure made it difficult for Mr B to alert the Council to the missed collections. This has caused frustration for Mr B. The Council is at fault for not providing a reliable bin collection service or reporting procedure.
  2. In addition, the Council has not responded to Mr B’s complaints within the times set in its complaint procedure. This is also fault.

Agreed action

  1. Within two months the Council has agreed to:
    • Apologise to Mr B.
    • Give Mr B details for an officer he can directly report any further missed collections to.
    • Review its procedure for reporting missed bin collections.
    • Review its procedure for identifying complaints about missed bin collections.
  2. Mr B will remain on the bin collection ‘hot list’ and the Council will monitor his collections for six months.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation and uphold Mr B’s complaint. Mr B was caused an injustice because the Council did not provide a reliable bin collection service. The Council have agreed to remedy Mr B’s injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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