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Birmingham City Council (18 011 774)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 28 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council is at fault as it delayed in collecting Mrs X’s garden waste and recycling. The Council has agreed to remedy the injustice to Mrs X by apologising to her and refunding her subscription for the garden waste service for 2018.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains the Council has repeatedly failed to collect her garden waste which is a service she pays for. Mrs X has also complained the Council failed to collect her recycling.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have:
    • Considered the complaint and the information provided by Mrs X;
    • Made enquiries of the Council and considered the information provided;
    • Invited Mrs X and the Council to comment on the draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Councils have a duty to collect household waste and recycling free of charge. Councils can also collect garden waste but this is a discretionary service which councils can charge for.
  2. The Council provides a garden waste collection service for which it charges £40 per year. The service runs for 40 weeks starting in March and finishing in early December each year. The Council should collect the waste every fortnight during this period. Mrs X subscribes to the service.
  3. Mrs X reported eight missed collections of her garden waste between March and December 2018. The Council’s records show it collected the waste but three collections were made on the date of the next scheduled collection. Other collections were made between five and 10 days after the scheduled collection date.
  4. Mrs X made a complaint about the missed collections. The Council responded and said it had experienced some operation problems which it was rectifying. It would remind crews to collect the waste as scheduled. Mrs X asked for her complaint to be reviewed as she was unhappy with the response. The Council said it expected the service to settle down and be collected as scheduled. Mrs X continued to report missed garden waste collections.
  5. Mrs X also reported three missed collections of her recycling. The Council’s records show it took up to five weeks to collect Mrs X’s recycling on one occasion and over two weeks to return to collect the other missed collections. Mrs X also reported the Council’s records showed it had completed one missed collection when it had not returned to collect it.

My assessment

  1. The Council missed collecting Mrs X’s garden waste on the due date on eight occasions. The Council should promptly deal with missed collections but it did not do so in this case. Mrs X had to wait for her next scheduled collection for the Council to collect her waste on three occasions and up to 10 days on the other occasions. This is fault.
  2. The Council also missed collecting Mrs X’s recycling on three occasions and it did not promptly deal with the missed collections. On one occasion the Council took five weeks to collect Mrs X’s recycling and over two weeks on another occasion. This is fault.
  3. The delays by the Council in collecting Mrs X’s garden waste and recycling has caused frustration to Mrs X and put her to avoidable time and trouble in having to chase the Council for the collection of the waste. Furthermore, the Council charges an additional fee for collecting garden waste but it has provided a poor service to Mrs X. The Council should remedy this injustice to Mrs X.

Agreed action

  1. That the Council:
  1. Sends a written apology to Mrs X for the poor garden waste collection service and frustration caused by the delays in collecting her recycling and garden waste.
  2. Either refunds the fee paid by Mrs X for the garden waste collection in 2018 or provides 2019 garden waste collection service free of charge if Mrs X has not yet paid the subscription. This is to acknowledge the frustration caused to Mrs X by the poor garden waste collection service. The Council should make the apology and payment within one month of my final decision.
  3. Monitors the garden waste collection service in Mrs X’s road for six months to ensure further problems do not recur. The Council should start the monitoring within one month of my final decision.

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Final decision

  1. The Council is at fault as it delayed in collecting Mrs X’s garden waste and recycling. The Council has agreed to remedy the injustice to Mrs X as recommended so I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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