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Birmingham bins not returned because of council squabble

Bickering Birmingham bin workers have left residents in one city street having to return their heavy communal bins to the right place, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

Until last summer residents in the block of flats had their bins emptied and returned to their storage area but since then, collection crews have left the bins blocking the footpath and obstructing a bus stop.

Although the bins are heavy, one resident has struggled to return them to the storage area so they are not a hazard – even in the ice and snow, and complained to the council she has had to do so.

The council responded to the woman, and said it would put steps in place to solve the problem. It said the issue was caused because of a disagreement between its waste management and housing teams, each stating it was not responsible for putting the bins back, but the situation has not improved.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“Bin collection is one of the most frequent and obvious interactions residents have with their councils, and every day thousands of bins are collected across the country without a hitch.

“I am disappointed that a squabble between departments has led to these consequences for residents, and the council has not yet sought to solve the issue despite it having gone on for more than a year.

“We do not usually report on cases such as these, but Birmingham’s failure to resolve the issue, even when we confirmed we were investigating, left us with little choice. It belatedly confirmed it accepted our recommendations but in the interim failed to address the problem, leaving the resident continuing to struggle.

“I would urge the council to take a long look at its waste service and the way it handles complaints to identify just why I am receiving and upholding such a significant number, and take steps to ensure this is improved.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £150 to recognise the frustration and difficulties the failure to return the communal bins has caused. It will also contact the woman to explain what it will do to ensure the bins are returned properly.

Article date: 11 November 2021