Thousands of missed collections: Harrogate's waste issues to be fixed in 'two to three weeks'

Stacked: Pockets around the district continue to experience frustration with their waste collections.
Stacked: Pockets around the district continue to experience frustration with their waste collections.

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has pledged the shortcomings surrounding missed bin collections in the district will be solved "in the next two or three weeks", as new figures highlight the true scale of the issue.

The local democracy reporting service first divulged more than a month ago how complaints regarding the waste collection service were rising sharply, but now new statistics reveal the depth of the "teething issues" the council has battled.

A Freedom of Information request to Harrogate Borough Council shows that more than 2500 incidents of missed collections were recorded in July, following the introduction of the new collection routes on June 24.

It comes as leader of the council Richard Cooper moved to address residents' angst over missed collections around the district over the last eight weeks.

"At the most, around five per cent of properties have been affected," Coun Cooper said

"For that I apologise to all those who have been affected. The changes have been made because they were necessary and to meet our carbon reduction commitments.

"They are taking longer to stabilise than we expected and I am sorry that residents have had to put up with a service that isn’t as good as we aim to deliver.

"In the areas where there have been issues, we hope to resolve them in the next two or three weeks."

Coun Cooper said the "most significant problems" remain with a small number of recycling collections, asking for patience while the authority sorted out the remaining issues.

It follows weeks of reports from residents across the district, fed-up with mounting piles of rotting waste due to missed collections.

The council leader said the changes had been made "for good reasons", such as reducing the authority's carbon footprint.

"We have more houses to collect from than ten years ago, so the routes the refuse trucks took were longer than necessary...We wanted to reduce this to help meet our carbon neutral commitment," he said.

"Inevitably, some areas were new to some of the crews and it has taken some time for the crews to get used to some parts of the new routes – particularly those back roads and snickets which aren’t immediately obvious."

Across July, there was 2546 complaints in total.

The level of missed collections peaked between July 14 and 28, with 1309 incidents recorded - an increase of 855 per cent compared to the two week-period before the new routes were introduced.

In the whole month of June there were 511 notices of missed collections, although almost half of these - 247 - occurred on or after the adoption of the new regime on June 24.

Multiple pockets of the community from across the Harrogate district have reported in recent weeks of not having their waste picked-up since the June changes, with those issues continuing into August.

Others have suffered from irregular collections since the changes were brought in, adding to residents' frustrations as piles of smelly and rotting heaps of rubbish pile up around the district.

Coun Cooper said the issues would be fixed within two to three weeks.

He said the council had taken action to address some specific issues, such as collecting from blocks of flats which use communal bins.

"We initially thought that we could include these in a regular household round but it turned out the tonnages were too high for those vehicles," he said.

"To solve this, in the last fortnight we have dedicated a single collection vehicle to these communal flats and this service should bed down in the next week or so."

Paul Campbell, the council's director of community, also told an overview and scrutiny committee last week that 95 per cent of bins were collected on their due dates the week before.

At the same meeting, councillors were told that the UCI Cycling Championships were likely to impact waste collection from Harrogate town centre residences.

It was predicted that 170 truck routes would be enclosed within the boundaries of the biking event between September 22 and 29, with work currently being undertaken to decide whether collection days are moved, cancelled, or if extra cover would be drafted in to aid pick-ups.

The council undertakes 90,000 waste collections from households around the district each week.

Lachlan Leeming, Local democracy Reporter