Lewis Herbert Under Fire for Cambridge Bin Strike Backlog

binmen07:20 Friday 18th July 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: So the mercury is rising, believe me. The sun cream, you’ll need it for later on. And the rubbish bins are still out as well in Cambridge, eight days over last week’s strike over pay and pensions. And the last of the 8,000 uncollected bins in Cambridge we’re told will finally be cleared away today. But the hot weather coupled with rotting refuse has prompted several people to make unfavourable comparisons with the bad old days of the 1970’s and the Winter of Discontent. Former County Council Leader Nick Clarke tweeting yesterday “Labour-run council in trouble already in Cambridge. Bins not being emptied because of strikes. Labour union strikes” And the city’s MP Julian Huppert calling it “a poor start to Labour’s stewardship of Cambridge City Council.” Well Lewis Herbert is the Leader of Cambridge City Council. Lewis, morning.
LEWIS HERBERT: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it your fault?

LEWIS HERBERT: Well, the industrial action happened last Thursday. Our political opponents are obviously trying to stir this up. It isn’t true that there’s rotting rubbish. The black bins, the rubbish, was cleared earlier this week. What we’re down to a few hundred blue bins. Dry recycling, and that consists of paper and glass. There is nothing rottable, smellable, difficult in that material. It’s recycling. We want to recycle it. We’re grateful that everybody separates it. And it will be cleared today. So there’s been a little bit of political mud-stirring going on here. But at the same time yes, it has been a catch-up. There has been inconvenience. We do apologise to our customers. There are differences, because this time we’ve been collecting a week after, whereas normally what happens is that if you have a Bank Holiday week Monday, we can always do it in the same week.
PAUL STAINTON: Why didn’t you clear it up the day after?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well the issue is that the staff went on strike.We can’t clear it on the day after because we have a workforce which has already got that day’s collections. So what has happened is that our workforce, and they work hard for the city, they do an excellent job, they clear not just the normal day but they clear a proportion of the material from the day of the strike.
PAUL STAINTON: Nevertheless though, whatever you say, we have rubbish on the streets. We have people complaining to this programme, and you promised ..
LEWIS HERBERT: We do not have rubbish on the streets.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we did, didn’t we, whether it’s recyclable rubbish or not. It doesn’t matter how you clarify it, it’s still bags of rubbish and bins on the street not been collected.
LEWIS HERBERT: No no. No. We don’t have bags of rubbish on the street.
LEWIS HERBERT: We have black bins, blue bins, green bins. And ..
PAUL STAINTON: And we have complaints.
LEWIS HERBERT: The Liberal Democrats have been stirring it up. One of their former councillors has been the most active.
PAUL STAINTON: Well if it had been cleared away Lewis, to be fair, there’d be no stirring to be done. And you promised to clear it by last weekend, didn’t you?
LEWIS HERBERT: No no we did not. We promised to do catch-up. The catch-up occurred under the Liberal Democrats. It has taken up to the whole of a week in the past to catch-up. The other alternative is that we then pay our workforce say to catch-up at a weekend, and I don’t think the public wants us to pay our workers to catch-up at a weekend.
PAUL STAINTON: But you’ve not paid them for the day off. Surely you could have used that money.
LEWIS HERBERT: Well we are reviewing how we do it. And there will be lessons learned. And as I said, we apologise to those people that had inconvenience.
PAUL STAINTON: What lessons are they that you’re learning?
PAUL STAINTON: What lessons are you learning?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well the communication could be improved. And that is the case .. that has been the case on previous catch-ups. And it should be feasible when we look at it again to improve on the way we do it. Councils can always improve. But the Liberal Democrats are spinning a lie if they say that there’s been catch-up in the past the day after. Catch-up occurs after Bank Holidays and after previous industrial disputes over a period of up to a week.
PAUL STAINTON: Will the bins all be collected today? Honestly.
LEWIS HERBERT: They’ll all be collected today.
LEWIS HERBERT: Your opening statement that there’s been rubbish rotting on the streets is a fabrication. And that is a fabrication that has been spun by Nick Clarke who wants to perhaps stand as the MP candidate to be Cambridge’s MP, and some Liberal Democrats. And we are sincerely apologising to our residents for some delay, but the last recycling will be collected today.
PAUL STAINTON: Hold on a minute. Nick Clarke didn’t say that. He said “Labour run council in trouble already. Bins not been emptied because of strikes. Labour unions strikes.” He has a fair point, doens’t he?
LEWIS HERBERT: No, but there’s been other people saying that there’s still black bins.
PAUL STAINTON: You said Nick Clarke. You’ve got to get your facts right Lewis.
LEWIS HERBERT: No well he has been making .. he has been .. all I’m saying Nick is he’s been stirring it up.”
PAUL STAINTON: But if you’d cleared it up there’d be nothing left to stir, would there? So you’ll learn lessons this time.
LEWIS HERBERT: There is catch-up. There has been poor communications on a couple of occasions to our residents. There is an improvement in the service, and we are here for our residents. We will listen to our residents. And yes, Nick Clarke who lives in Papworth Evererd, has got a point to contribute, but he’s not one of our residents.
PAUL STAINTON: Nevertheless next time you’ll do it better.
LEWIS HERBERT: There is lessons to be learned. And we will catch-up better.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. Lewis, thank you for coming on. Lewis Herbert, Labour Leader of Cambridge City Council. Lessons to be learned on the way they’ve dealt with that strike, which left bins on the streets. And as Lewis says, they’ll learn lessons for the next time something similar happens.