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Birmingham City Council (20 011 546)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the time the Council collects the rubbish from the complainants’ home. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I refer to as Mr & Mrs X, complain the Council collects the rubbish from 5.30am. They say the Council is breaching the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Mr & Mrs X do not want the Council to collect the rubbish before 8am.

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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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I considered the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and comments Mr & Mrs X made in reply to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

Council bin collection times

  1. The Council collects rubbish and recycling from 5.30am.

Control of Pollution Act

  1. This Act controls noise from construction sites and specified street noise. The street noise it controls is noise from loudspeakers.

What happened

  1. Mr & Mrs X have been complaining about early refuse collections since late 2019. They say the collection can be as early as 5.30am. It wakes them up and causes distress for the rest of the day because they cannot go back to sleep. They spoke to a local councillor and, for a couple of weeks, the collection was after 8am. But, it then reverted to early collection times. Mr & Mrs X say the Control of Pollution Act limits noisy work from 8am to 6pm. Mr & Mrs X want the collections to start after 8am. They have provided evidence that over the last few months the collections have varied between 5.43am and 8.57am.
  2. In response the Council explained that collections are scheduled to start from 5.30am. It explained it has had to stagger start times due to social distancing which have led to some changes during the pandemic. It said it had reminded the crews to be as quiet as possible.


  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. The policy, regardless of COVID-19, is for collections to start from 5.30am and the Control of Pollution Act does not apply to refuse collections. The bulk of the collections are after 6am which is consistent with many other council areas. I appreciate Mr & Mrs X find the early collections disturbing and bin collections are never a quiet activity. However, there will always be some streets that have an early place on the round and are more prone to early collections. It is not, however, our role to tell a council to reorganise a round or tell a council that it must change the start time. If Mr & Mrs X feel the Council should adopt a later start time they would need to lobby their councillors for a change in the policy so that collections do not start until later. It would be for the Council to decide whether to implement a later start time.
  2. Mr & Mrs X want to know why the collections start at 5.30am. For a definitive answer they would need to ask the Council. However, it may be because an early start gives the crews the best chance of getting all the collections done and at a time when there is less traffic. If the Council were to delay the start until 8am, as the complainants want, then it is unlikely there would be time for the crews to complete all the rounds.
  3. Mr & Mrs X say the collections are noisy and should be treated as a breach of the Pollution Area. Bin collections are noisy but they are not covered by the Pollution Act so I cannot criticise the Council for not applying it to the collections.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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