‘It’s class war’: Resistance promised as hundreds sign petitions against Camden bin collection changes
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:25 16 February 2017
The council has been accused of starting a “class war” as opposition grows to its plans to reduce rubbish collections in the north of Camden.
Hundreds of residents have signed two petitions aimed at reversing the policy, which will mean waste is picked up from most of Frognal and Fitzjohns, Swiss Cottage, West Hampstead, Belsize, Gospel Oak, Hampstead Town, Highgate and Kilburn once a fortnight. Most of Holborn and Covent Garden, Bloomsbury, Regent’s Park, King’s Cross and St Pancras and Somers Town retain weekly collections.
Opponents say the plan, which comes into effect on April 1, unfairly targets what is considered the wealthier parts of Camden while leaving the poorer parts unaffected.
But Camden Council has insisted the scheme is essential to saving money lost to central government cuts and giving recycling a much-needed boost in the borough.
Cllr Don Williams, Conservative representative for Swiss Cottage and chair of the resources and corporate performance scrutiny committee, attacked the plan because he claims it does not save enough money to justify its consequences.
He said: “It makes no sense – they are putting the public hygiene at risk to save £821,000 a year. Is this penny-pinching worth it?
“But they are also targeting the more expensive parts of Camden – the places that actually pay their council tax – while leaving the parts that are reliant on council funding.”
He added: “They are creating a civil war – it is a deliberate attempt to divide society. It’s class war.”
If the council persists with the plan, Cllr Williams said, there will be a strong reaction.
“People will come up with ways to resist,” he said. “It’s discrimination. And I think the rats and foxes will be saying, ‘Wow, now we can move in and get more food’.”
Sustainability and environment cabinet member Cllr Meric Apak, however, rubbished the “ridiculous” notion that the council was instigating class warfare.
He said: “This is not just about saving £800,000, which does not consider the bigger picture,” adding the new contract – part of an “innovative, recycling-led approach” – will save £5million a year.
“We will do everything we can to support residents. The less rubbish we have to send to the incinerator, the more we can recycle, saving residents and council taxpayers money.”
But as the two petitions aimed at forcing Camden Council to reverse its fortnightly bin collection plans attract hundreds of supporters, a company has already been created to offer private collections – and stave off vermin.
One of the petitions was started by Camden Conservatives and has more than 400 signatures, while the other – started by Hampstead activist Jessica Learmond-Criqui – has more than 180.
Ms Learmond-Criqui said: “It’s totally nonsensical – we are supposed to be equal in this borough but this is unfair and undemocratic. Why have they chosen only a few wards?”
She added that she is in favour of recycling, but said it is unreasonable to expect families to store dirty nappies on their property for two weeks – and stressed fly-tipping could increase as a consequence.
She said that it will “encourage foxes, vermin and aggressive seagulls,” adding: “Yes, there are seagulls in Hampstead”.
Ms Learmond-Criqui added that the change in collections could be reversed with more local control – and promised to continue her campaign for Hampstead to have its own parish council.
Camden Tories, meanwhile, explain in their petition that the plan could result in a “public health emergency” in the borough.
“Cutting weekly bin collections to once a fortnight will lead to an epidemic of fly-tipping, an explosion of rat infestations, and a deterioration of public health and the public realm,” they added.
The petition also attacks Camden Labour for its 2014 election manifesto, which states: “Camden Labour guarantees that we will maintain weekly bin collections for the whole of our next four-year term.”
Some Kilburn residents, however, have decided to step into the gap left by the council.
Camden Bins, started by cousins James and George Curley, promises to collect rubbish in the weeks that the council does not.
It charges £39 a month to collect two bags on two occasions or £397.80 to make 26 collections (covering the year). Customers can also have three or four bags collected, with the latter costing £75 a month or £795.60 for the year.
Founder George Curley said he will start collecting from the first week the scheme comes into effect.
He said: “I didn’t like the news, but I saw an opportunity and decided to take it. The feedback has already been really great.”
Based on comments submitted to the petitions, Mr Curley might expect plenty of customers.
Miranda Seymour wrote: “This plan is going to prove spectacularly unhygienic and messy.”
Jan Dagleish, meanwhile, wrote: “Our bins are overflowing every week be it recycling or rubbish. I pay high taxes and I expect my bins to be collected every week.”