Performance Failure – Part 1 – Environment Services

Reported rubbish is not being cleared
Reported rubbish is not being cleared

Performance Failure – Part 1 – Environment Services

I know it isn’t an exciting document and especially to the media but this week we are going to see the very dull titled Northampton Borough Council 2012-2013 Out turn Report published.

As the saying goes “You should never judge a book by its cover, “and in terms of politics and the importance of the document it would be unwise to judge it by its title and more importantly to ignore its contents.

Put simply it is the Northampton Borough Council performance data for the last year which reveals a level of discrepancy between what we have been told by the Conservative Council administration about services and the reality.

The Conservative Leadership has been very vocal in accusing those who have criticised the ‘state of the town’ and especially the failure of the environment contract to provided the promised ‘improved’ waste collection and grass cutting when the contract was given to Enterprise PLC as being at best alarmist and at worst dishonest.

Even now the Conservative administration are only saying in the performance report that,

“The services provided by Enterprise under this contract had some ‘initial’ teething problems”.

The question is how long is an initial ‘teething problem’ period.

It is now two years since the contract was given to Enterprise and still the problems of missed collections, poor quality grass cutting and continuing problems of fly tipping across the Borough continues.

Missed collections are leading to environmental hazards
Missed collections are leading to environmental hazards

What this years performance shows is that the number of ‘missed bins’ has risen by 50% and the number of missed bins collected within 24 hours has fallen by 17.5% so that now only eight out of ten missed collections are collected within a day.

This of course is even worse for those areas who are on a Saturday collection because missed collections can’t be reported until Monday morning so residents have to live with it for at least two days.

The question is how and what are they measuring and more importantly can we trust what they are saying?

Apparently in the last year all reported ‘fly tipping’ has been removed within 2 working days of being reported.

A claim that will ring hollow with those who report it and then see it uncollected sometimes not only for days but weeks.

I include myself in the same group with this last weekend having reported the 1000th missed/fly tipping since the 1st November last year and having had to report some incidents a number of times before it is finally removed.

The knock on effect is that people have lost confidence in the whole service which is reflected in a number of ways the main one being “If they don’t care, why should we”?

It is an attitude that is damaging to everyone who has to live in an environment where neighbourhoods are surrounded with uncollected rubbish and fly tipping.

The target for composting and recycling household waste over the last year has failed to meet its target of 47% and judging by the number of plastic bags with food in them that I see which have been attacked by cats and other animals seems to suggest that people have given up on recycling.

What will it take before the whole issue of rubbish on our streets is taken seriously?

Someone catching a disease perhaps from infected rubbish and waste?

What is increasingly worrying at this time of year is that the amount of missed collections and fly tipping is increasing at the same time we will see children start their summer holidays.

Perhaps a comment made by a local Conservative Councillor I bumped into on Sunday in the Weston Favell Centre sums up the attitude of the administration.

He asked me if I had been out in the ward and when I said that I had over a hundred missed collections and fly tipping to report his immediate response was, ” I have better things to do on a Sunday” and the cynical comment that

” people don’t really care and anyway they don’t vote “.

Which of course is wrong because people do care, but it is also difficult to argue against when all of the evidence is that people don’t care enough to go and vote.

The reality is that the environment contract was badly drawn up and especially the monitoring and management processes which were then exacerbated by the failure of the Conservatives to get a grip of the problems.

If we put our faith in the accuracy and reliability of the Borough Councils performance date for the last year there is no doubt that rather than improving the services have got worse.

The problem is that we know that at least one performance measure isn’t accurate so how can we trust the others?

If "not my problem", Whose?
If “not my problem”, Whose?

Of course it may be a cynical but very clever ploy.

If people lose total faith in the service and stop reporting missed collections and fly tipping then performance will ‘improve’!!!! ,

If of course you work on the basis that what you don’t know and don’t record isn’t happening.

Perhaps the Councillor on Sunday was right – “that there are better things to do over the weekend”.

Or as he put it, “it isn’t me who throws the rubbish out so why should I care if it’s collected”?