Concerns over food bins with rotting waste amid council four-day week

Locals outraged over council move to give binmen an extra day off every week amid fears food bins could be left to rot

  • South Cambs District Council bin collections will no longer be on Mondays 
  • New bins timetable kicks in on September 18 as part of four-day week trial 

Food bins with rotting waste could go uncollected for weeks in the initial stages of a council controversially widening its four-day week trial, it has been claimed.

Bin collections for more than 100,000 households served by South Cambs District Council will no longer be on Mondays as a new timetable kicks in on September 18.

Some homes will now not have some bins such as those with food waste collected for more than a fortnight as the changes are initially brought in, local politicians say.

Binmen normally collect food waste each fortnight, with recycling and other waste bins emptied on alternate weeks. But critics claimed the new policy at the Liberal Democrat-run council was brought in at late notice and will cause ‘confusion’.

The council admitted there could be disruption for some residents whose collections will initially be out of sync, but said it will be a ‘far simpler timetable’ once running. 

The local authority began a three-month pilot of the four-day week in January for 450 desk-based staff at its headquarters in Cambourne. Councillors then agreed in May to continue the trial for another year and extend it to binmen and cleaners.

The council says it is trying to make working for the authority more attractive and fill vacancies, with a four-day week improving the ‘health and wellbeing of colleagues’.

But the authority – which is the first in Britain to attempt a three-day weekend – is carrying on with the experiment despite the Government ordering it to stop in July.

Bin collections in South Cambs District Council will no longer be on Monday (file picture)

Heather Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition on the council, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I don’t think it’s giving the taxpayer value for money.

READ MORE Cambridge academics face questions over independence of report praising introduction of four-day week after emails emerge showing it was edited by council before being published 

‘You want five days’ worth of work, not four. They haven’t consulted with the residents. I think it’s a complete abuse of position to do something like this.’

Richard Williams, a Tory councillor for Whittlesford, also told the newspaper: ‘Frankly people are outraged at the fact that the council is doing this at the expense of taxpayers. 

‘The late notice runs the risk that people are not going to know this has happened. It is going to cause confusion. It’s going to risk people putting things in a non-recycling bin because they’re not going to be able to put things in the recycling bin for the best part of a month.’

The council has advised residents impacted by the changes to take their refuse to a household recycling centre if it is not collected in the usual way.

Henry Batchelor, lead cabinet member for environmental services, told MailOnline today: ‘Greater Cambridge – city and South Cambridgeshire – has seen 19,000 new homes from April 2011 to March 2023. 

‘We can’t just keep adding more and more homes onto existing bin rounds. So, every five or so years we review all the rounds to ensure they are as efficient as possible.

‘This coincided with our decision to stop making collections on Mondays, which avoids confusion for residents on bank holidays – most of which fall on a Monday. 

The Mail revealed how council chief executive Liz Watts  – who had never publicly disclosed she was carrying out a PhD on the four-day week – had privately started working on proposals

The trial of a four-day week in South Cambridgeshire has attracted criticism from Conservative councillors Heather Williams (left) and Richard Williams (right)

‘We recognise that as the new routes are introduced there will be a temporary period of a couple of weeks as residents get used to new collection days in the new timetable. 

READ MORE EDDIE BARNES: The rise of the four-day week will only widen the chasm between the public sector and the rest of us who pay their wages

‘This includes disruption for a very small number of residents whose recycling bin collections will be out of sync.

‘However, once bedded in, we are expecting this to be a far simpler timetable for people as there won’t be a change each time there is a bank holiday Monday.’

It comes after the Daily Mail revealed yesterday that Cambridge University academics were facing questions about the independence of their glowing assessment of South Cambs introducing the four-day week.

The university’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy reviewed data from the council’s three-month trial of the radical change to working hours, and hailed it a great success.

However, it has since emerged that behind the scenes academics actually allowed the council to edit their report.

Researchers claimed in May that their ‘rigorous analysis’ had shown that giving staff an extra day off every week boosts wellbeing, increases productivity and in some areas even improves performance.

Meanwhile, the town hall said the institute was ‘asked to independently review’ the data to ‘ensure it was analysed without any risk of bias’.

But emails between the two bodies, obtained by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) under the Freedom of Information Act, showed how the council made changes after being sent an early draft of the document.

South Cambridgeshire District Council headquarters are located in Cambourne (file picture) 

The TPA has now written to all town hall bosses in England asking them to sign a pledge ruling out implementing a four-day working week.

READ MORE Revealed: How HUNDREDS of council staff across Britain are being given permission by town hall bosses to WFB (that’s ‘working from the beach’)… so where does YOUR local authority sit on the full ‘list of shame’?

South Cambs has insisted its initial three-month pilot was a great success despite official figures showing it was taking staff far longer to answer residents’ calls and deal with benefits and planning claims.

The pilot prompted a rebuke from local government minister Lee Rowley, who warned that giving staff an extra day off each week with no loss of pay was unlikely to provide value for money to taxpayers – and may breach its legal duties.

He acknowledged that private sector organisations can choose to experiment with four-day weeks but said that local government should not do the same.

Mr Rowley said that the working arrangement may affect the ‘duty of best value’ required under the Local Government Act 1999.

And he revealed that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will soon issue guidance for all councils in England to make it clear that ‘this innovation should not be pursued’.

The TPA previously revealed that a four-day week would cost £30billion per year in lost working time alone if introduced across the public sector.

In July, the Daily Mail revealed that the South Cambs four-day week was sparked by its boss’s secret university project on the topic.

The council had previously insisted that it decided to look into the radical change to working hours after it was suggested as a way to boost staff recruitment at a conference a year ago.

But the Mail then obtained documents that revealed chief executive Liz Watts – who had never publicly disclosed she was carrying out a PhD on the four-day week – had privately started working on proposals weeks earlier.

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