A pilot for a revised bin collections service has been delayed due to problems sourcing new recycling containers, the leader of St Helens Council has confirmed.
St Helen’s Council’s cabinet approved a trial for three-weekly brown bin collections and a revised weekly recycling service back in October.
A collection trial at approximately 1,000 properties, across two areas within the town centre was originally planned to start this month.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands this has now been delayed by up to six months, which has led to accusations from opposition councillors that it is a deliberate ploy to avoid the trial running before May’s local elections.
The council had been silent on the bins trial for a few months, but last week council leader Derek Long announced the pilot would begin as planned in February with an “educational exercise”.
This will see the council write to properties in the Shires Estate and Fingerpost areas of the town centre to provide information about the pilot and advice about how to “recycle better”.
Coun Long said the three-weekly collections will actually start “later in the year” once residents are “fully aware of how the new system will work”.
The Labour leader has now said the reason for the delay is down to issues with securing new recycling containers.
“Last year we set out an indicative framework for modernising the recycling and waste collection service,” Coun Long said.
“Key activities included education and promotion, procurement of vehicles and containers, installation of in-cab technology and the pilot collection pattern.
“Following our consultation with residents as part of our scrutiny work, it was clear that this modernisation should include new collection containers and that they should be part of the recycling trial.
“We obviously want the best for our residents. However, the containers we need appear not to be available currently from manufacturers, so we are still exploring how the industry might provide what we need.”
Coun Long said the issue has resulted in a “slight delay” to the pilot.
“For this to be a fair pilot, we need to have the containers that will do the job in the future,” Coun Long said.
“This is vital so that we can achieve the increases in recycling that will reduce the huge cost we all pay for dumping rubbish in our brown bins.”
The plans were set to get the green light by cabinet a year ago but was deferred for further scrutiny at the last hour.
The pilot was originally proposed to start covering 2,000 homes across two routes last September with a view to being rolled out in September 2019.
It is understood the latest delay has caused political unrest among the Labour camp due in part because it will push the full roll-out up until the 2020 local elections.
St Helens Conservative group leader Allan Jones has also accused Labour of delaying the controversial pilot because of fears it will lose the party votes in the upcoming local elections in May.
Coun Jones said: “The Labour party in the council is falling apart due to an election coming up.
“They are going to find it very difficult to hold on to their seats.
“They aren’t sure what to do about the brown bins, so they aren’t making a decision until after the election.”
When the collection changes come in as part of the pilot, brown bins, containing non-recyclable material, will be collected every three weeks, rather than two, as it is at present.
The pilot will continue to include the weekly collection of food waste, paper, plastics and cans.
The shake-up is being driven by a need to reach a national recycling target of 50% by 2010.
Independent councillor James Tasker believes residents would like to recycle more and do not object to changes to the recycling system.
Coun Tasker called on the council to scrap its plans and look instead to carry out a complete overhaul of its recycling system.
“Residents in Rainhill are constantly contacting me to say that their waste and recycling hasn’t been collected or that due to the bags system their recycling has ended up all over the street,” Coun Tasker said.
“The council needs to focus on improving our recycling facilities before they even consider cutting waste collections.
“Three-weekly bin collections is already a big issue locally and now with the pilot scheme being delayed it’s only going to make this a bigger issue.
“Some people have lost faith in the Labour council over its handling of the Local Plan and school crossing patrols.
“Now they can’t even roll out a pilot scheme.”