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Food bins to be left rotting for ‘best part of a month’ as council switches to four-day week


Bins filled with decomposing food waste will not be collected for “the best part of a month” in parts of South Cambridgeshire, as the local council steps up a controversial four-day week experiment.

The move will result in the end of Monday bin collections for more 100,000 households served by South Cambs District Council, as the local authority brings in a new timetable for its binmen in line with its four-day operation.

As a result, a number of households who normally have their rubbish taken away at the start of the week now face not having certain types of waste, including food waste, collected for more than two weeks as the new timetable is initially brought in, local politicians have warned.

Food waste is normally collected fortnightly, with recycling and other waste bins being emptied on alternative weeks, but some residents face rubbish piling up as the changes are brought in and some normal collections are temporarily missed.

On its website the council advises affected residents to take their refuse to a household recycling centre if it is not collected in the normal way, with the new bin timetable coming into effect from September 18.

The Liberal Democrat-run council is the first in Britain to trial giving staff a three-day weekend, which critics say is depriving residents of essential services.

Councillor Heather Williams, the leader of the Conservative opposition, said residents were being treated with “disdain” by local authority leaders over the change.

The council voted to extend a four-day working week trial in May by 12 months in an effort to fill up staff vacancies and “improve the health and wellbeing of colleagues”. 

It has pushed ahead with the controversial experiment, despite an explicit request from the Government to cease the trial in July.

But residents’ anger has been mounting in response, according to councillors, as the changes now set to scale back regular refuse collections and give binmen an extra day off every week.

Cllr Williams said: “It’s treating the residents with disdain just assuming they’ll put up with whatever is thrown at them. I don’t think it’s giving the taxpayer value for money. 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.”

The move is expected to affect 80pc of South Cambs residents, or some 104,000 households.

Richard Williams, a Conservative councillor for Whittlesford, said: “Frankly people are outraged at the fact that the council is doing this at the expense of taxpayers.

“The notice came extremely late… a few weeks ago. Certainly 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.”

Cllr Henry Batchelor, lead cabinet member for environmental services at South Cambs District Council, defended the changes.

He said: “Greater Cambridge 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).

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

He added: “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.”