Council and staff at odds as ‘bin day’ set to change

CRAIGAVON’S 41,000 householders will experience major changes to their bins collection days from the beginning of December - but council members and staff are at odds over how to inform the ratepayers.

The new schedules and routes, worked out over the past few months, will mean that ‘bin day’ will be changed for the majority of homes, but the council underlines that the actual weekly service will remain the same. “It simply means a change of day,” said a council spokesperson.

However, disagreements between councillors and staff were evident at Monday night’s council meeting after environmental services director Lorraine Crawford presented her schedule for informing every household. The publicity plan was estimated at £26,243, the main component being a direct mail campaign - letters to every household - at a cost of £18,735. The remaining £7,508 was made up of design costs, billboards, Adshell (bus shelter advertising) and press advertising.

In presenting the estimates, Mrs Crawford pointed out that the new bins routes and schedules would save the ratepayers around £2,000 a day, without a reduction in service. The schedules were worked out by a private firm called ISL, the cost of which was around £7,000.

Councillor Mark Baxter started the councillors’ opposition by saying he was “baffled” that the estimates had risen since the last committee meeting, even though certain savings had been suggested. But Mrs Crawford replied that informing every household was a complex operation and ratepayers had to be clearly informed of the changes. There were, she pointed out, 20 different types of letters to deliver to 41,000 households.

Alderman Stephen Moutray said that more use could be made of the “free” social media websites like facebook, while Councillor Johnny McGibbon questioned the effectiveness of billboard advertising. And Councillor Darren Causby pointed out that election campaigning - when candidates send mail to every voter - were much less expensive.

After Councillor Baxter suggested that the refuse workers could deliver the letters during their current rounds, Mrs Crawford insisted that prices for mail drops had gone up lately and that informing households of the complex bin changes were much more complicated than a straight-forward election campaign.

Councillor Gemma McKenna took up the theme that refuse collectors could act as delivery personnel as they covered every home, and the issue was then referred to the next meeting of the environmental services committee.