British local authorities rubbished over trash backlog

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A British minister accused local authorities of complacency Wednesday over a backlog of rubbish that has built up following a cold snap and a series of public holidays.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill wrote to all English council leaders urging them to clear the "unhealthy backlog of waste" piling up on streets after some households were left without a trash collection for four weeks.

"It is clear that there is widespread public concern at the extent of the disruption to collections," wrote Neill.

"It is particularly troubling that some press reports could appear to suggest a level of complacency and a failure to address the seriousness of the issues."

Snow and freezing temperatures paralysed many trash collection vehicles throughout Britain's coldest December since 1890, leaving bin bags to pile up in the streets of several cities.

Collections were also cancelled in some areas because Christmas and New Year's Day fell on successive Saturdays, meaning there were extra public holidays during the following weeks that also affected services.

One of the worst-hit areas was Birmingham, England's second city, where industrial action since December 20 by refuse collectors in a pay dispute has compounded the problem.

With some Birmingham households waiting four weeks for a rubbish collection, the council said refuse workers had been working non-stop for the last three days and the situation would be back to normal by Friday.

In the southwestern city of Exeter, where rubbish has also been on the streets for nearly a month, full collections will not return until January 24.

Neill stressed that regular bin collections should be regarded as "one of the most basic services" paid for by taxpayers at a local level.

"Yet many families... have had to wait for over a month for their waste to be collected, which because of Christmas is likely to be larger in volume and may well include more food waste than usual," he said.

The issue of bin collections is a sensitive one among British taxpayers and the reduction in collections in many areas across the country in recent years from once a week to once a fortnight has stirred much anger.

The rubbish crisis has added to the grim mood in Britain as the coalition government imposes tough austerity measures -- including on public services -- in a bid to reduce the country's huge deficit.

© 2011 AFP

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