Local Conservatives have managed to temporarily stop Wokingham Borough Council’s removal of public bins after it was revealed that the Liberal Democrat administration failed to follow the Council’s constitution when making the decision.
However, Conservative councillors warned that the pause is only a “short reprieve” and urged the Liberal Democrats to listen to residents and reverse the axing of public bins and collections.
The call comes as Council officers admitted that the administration had not followed proper procedures when ordering the removal of bins, preventing scrutiny of their actions by councillors and residents.
The Council’s Executive will now be required to discuss the proposal and vote on whether to continue it.
Wokingham Borough Conservatives have also proposed a motion for the next Council meeting requiring the Council to consult with residents and allow Councillors proper scrutiny.
Plans to remove some bins along footpaths and in parks and reduce collection of rubbish from others were announced on social media and via a press release by the Council, quoting the Liberal Democrat councillor responsible.
The Liberal Democrats’ plans were announced alongside a series of cuts in other Council services, including grass cutting, street sweeping and weed spraying.
Wokingham Borough’s Opposition Conservative Group criticised the Liberal Democrats’ “policy by Twitter” approach which reduces transparency, and stops debates and votes on Council decisions.
Conservative Leader Cllr Pauline Jorgensen is calling on residents to tell the administration that cutting the number of public bins, and the frequency of emptying them, is the wrong decision and to reverse the policy.
Cllr Jorgensen also rejected the Liberal Democrats’ justification that the Council needs to make savings, pointing out that money should have been in the budget approved in February.
She argued that the Conservatives proposed an alternative budget reducing spending on expensive back-office and interim staff, which would have freed up money to pay for these frontline services.
This alternative budget was voted down by the Liberal Democrats and their Labour coalition allies.
Cllr Jorgensen said:
“Politics is about making choices, and at every opportunity, the Lib Dems make the wrong ones.
“Despite it not being mentioned in their manifesto or budget announcements, Liberal Democrat councillors must have been well aware of this policy to reduce public litter bins; the Liberal Democrat Executive member was quoted in the press release announcing the cuts.
“Repeatedly the Lib Dems fail to consult with residents, and they duck scrutiny. It demonstrates a total disregard for the people who voted for them.
“Now to be told by officers that the decision was not made correctly just demonstrates the Lib Dems’ incompetence, despite what they say.
“I call on Independent and Labour councillors to back my motion to ensure a proper consultation for residents at the Council meeting next week.”