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Formal complaints against Trafford council over its maligned bin collection services have been upheld by a watchdog.

The town hall now has to change the way it investigates missed bin collections after the Local Government Ombudsman received a large 'volume of complaints' over the authority's handling of its waste management service.

Bin collections in Trafford, which the council contracted out to Amey PLC to provide as part of the OneTrafford partnership, have been a source of frustration for residents and councillors alike for months, in some cases years, with missed collections reported on a weekly basis.

Trafford council's contract with Amey has been under review for some time.

As a result of the watchdog's investigation which led to it upholding six formal complaints against the council, the authority has now agreed to make the necessary changes.

At the end of 2019, the Labour administration acknowledged the 'failing' bin services and placed a series of ultimatums on Amey PLC to improve the service urgently.

Steps were taken and some were improvements made, but this didn't stop the ombudsman upholding the complaints it received about the service.

Elsinore Street, near Trafford Bar tram station (Image: Manchester Evening News)

Problems raised through formal complaints included assisted bin collections for elderly or disabled people not being put back in the right place. For one disabled man, this meant the bins blocked him from getting out of his house.

In another case, over an extended period, residents of one block of flats regularly had to collect their communal bin from a car park, some 100 yards away.

The Ombudsman upheld six people’s complaints about their bin collections between April and December 2019 and has now issued a public report because of the volume of complaints it was receiving.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Although Trafford Council has responded appropriately to these people’s reports, this has not stopped their problems from happening again. The council’s complaints process has not allowed it to learn from its monitoring of the service, before escalating the complaints to me.

“I’m pleased the council has agreed to the changes to its complaints process I have recommended and hope this will now allow it to recognise where improvements need to be made to the service it provides.

“Anyone who is experiencing problems with the refuse collection service should first have completed the council’s complaints process before we can register a complaint. Any complaints that then come to us will be looked at on a case-by-case basis."

The council has agreed to apologise to all the people who have complained formally and monitor their next 12 collections.

Four of the people who have complained will also receive £100 to acknowledge the time and trouble they have gone to in bringing their complaints, while the people living in the block of flats will be given £150 each 'in recognition of the injustice caused over a number of years'.

The crew who collect the disabled man’s bins will be given a photograph of where the bins are to be left.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to review its missed collection report and complaints process, and will also ask its overview and scrutiny committee to consider whether the recent changes to its waste collection service have brought about improvements to the service.

Trafford council have fined contractors Amey over a series of failings (Image: Manchester Evening News)

A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “We are very sorry for the failures of our bin collections service and we have apologised to the complainants for the understandable frustrations caused by the problems.

“We pride ourselves on maintaining high standards for our residents. In these cases, we are very disappointed that the operations of our contractor has resulted in a substandard service for these residents.

“We will now continue to monitor their waste collections to make sure bins are collected and replaced in the correct position. We will also review our missed collections report and complaints procedure to ensure any issues are dealt with swiftly.

“As has been noted in the ombudsman’s report, our officers are working very closely with our service provider to drive improvements in service delivery. However, we acknowledge that this is not happening fast enough.

“We are currently in a formal process with our service provider to review performance and address the ongoing service delivery issues because we are fully committed to ensuring that the residents of Trafford receive a quality waste collection service.”

Posted: 2020-03-20 17:51:27

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