Cuts to bin collection services blamed on Health and Safety Executive demands in Barnsley are actually a council money-saving measure - with the local authority receiving no instruction to change their working practices - it has been claimed.
The council is now refusing to confirm that it has been instructed to stop taking its refuse trucks onto unadopted roads, even though a letter issued to affect residents last year specifically said they were acting on HSE advice.
Residents are expected to take bins to the kerbside for collection by bin lorries, but until last year it was council practice to make collections where isolated homes in rural areas were on unadopted roads, some a significant distance from the formal highway.
During 2017 a wagon overturned on an unadopted road and following that, Barnsley Council began contacting residents living on such roads to explain they would be expected to take bins to the roadside in future.
The letter said from council official Graham Young said: “We have been advised by the Health and Safety Executive that to minimise this risk collection vehicles should not leave the highway.”
But a councillor claims such advice was never given and Barnsley Council has refused to clarify the situation.
Coun Paul Hand-Davis, who represents the Penistone area where many of the affected residents live, told a meeting of councillors: “There is no letter from the HSE, it is about time and money.
“We have been disproportionately affected affected and I think it was a very arbitrary decision.
“We have gone out to some of the trickier ones, it can get very heated. We have not taken sides, but I do feel sorry for residents.
“For 60 or 70 years we have done it, but have now withdrawn the service. I think we need a bespoke answer to each property,” he said.
Barnsley Council has declined to refute Coun Hand-Davis’allegation, stating: “Members were speaking in their capacity as elected representatives at the meeting, not as spokespeople for BMBC and its policy.”
A request to release details of the advice from the HSE, referred to when the council contacted residents, was also overlooked.
As recently as last month, councillors were being told at a members’ briefing that the reason for the changes was based on the need to conform to HSE rules.
Keeping collections to adopted roads means Barnsley Council can stop using a smaller bin wagon which had been used to negotiate unadopted roads.
That will save money because collection rates are slower in those locations and the lorry’s capacity is smaller than the regular wagons, so it needs emptying more often.
Councillors representing those affected have been so concerned by the impact the change will have that they have discussed using money they have to spend locally to provide an alternative service.
Coun Hannah Kitching, who represents the rural Penistone West ward on Barnsley Council, said she had attended a briefing weeks earlier where councillors were told the reason for the change was health and safety implications of continuing collections on unadopted roads.
She is concerned that a resident could end up injured while trying to get a bin over a long distance to the roadside and said: “I don’t feel we are any closer to a satisfactory solution. It is a sticking plaster and not sustainable.
“This is a decision made by Cabinet. I think the fall out is greater than they could have ever imagined. I struggle to see how this exercise is saving the council money.
“I would like to see some evidence from core services that this is genuinely saving money before we start putting our hands in our pockets.”
Coun John Wilson said: “In some locations it is unreasonable for the council to expect people to take it (waste) to large bins and mix it in with other waste that will then go to the recycling centre and then be sorted out.
“The budget they have got doesn’t allow the time to go down these roads, I get that.
“I am about finding another solution.”
A statement from Barnsley Council said they complied “with HSE hierarchy of control where elimination and control of risks are paramount”.
“Rural collections often involve difficult vehicle manoeuvres off the adopted highway, some of which are deemed a significant risk, including reversing.
“In order to ensure the safety of our employees, customers and the public, we have liaised with householders and customers to relocate waste and recycling collection points to the edge of the highway.”