University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Budget Cuts Lead to Backlogged Bins

Jodie Fullerton

ByJodie Fullerton

May 13, 2024

Financial struggles and budget cuts are an issue that most councils across the nation are facing at a rapidly developing rate. Brighton & Hove City Council have been confronted with numerous challenges in their public sectors, such as striking staff and vandalised equipment. The waste management industry is just one of the services facing the effects of budgeting councils and salary cuts. 

According to the Local Government Association, more than two-thirds of local towns nationwide have faced disruption and changes to their regular waste collection services. Some refuse collectors may face unemployment or significant salary reduction due to the budgeting decisions made by local councils. Despite the government’s £600 million investment into local government budgets this January, councils around the country must make drastic changes to their spending in order to avoid joining the fourteen that have already had to issue a Section 114 notice, a declaration of bankruptcy. 

The salaries of staff employed to local councils is the largest cost that councils have to budget for, as all “Council employee contracts dictate that staff are due a pay increase each year”, Callum McGoldrick, a representative of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, claimed during an interview with The Badger. Resulting budgetary strains and cuts subsequently risk the wellbeing and safety of residents. Callum continued that “councils will often make cuts to services before attempting to cut internal cuts. Councils in the UK can raise council tax up by a maximum of 5% per year. By deliberately making services worse, they can argue that tax increases are needed.” It is not the salaries of the Council employees that are affected by these budget cuts, rather, the residents of local towns who are affected by the choice to reduce public services, such as bin collections. 

Some councils, such as Lambeth and Birmingham, have reduced their collection services from weekly to fortnightly, leaving households overrun with bin bags and bad odours. This change to the collection timetable leaves the streets of local towns overflowing with excessive amounts of general waste, increasing the chance of attracting animals and rodents to residential areas. 

Brighton is not exempt from these public service changes and budget cuts, as despite the waste collections remaining a weekly occurrence, the Brighton & Hove City Council have, in the last two months, dealt with bin-lorry sabotage and talk of union strikes from angry waste collectors  concerned about proposed redundancies, salary cuts and poor working conditions. A ballot taken by union members at Brighton’s CityClean depot revealed that 95% of workers supported acting against Brighton & Hove City Council’s planned redundancies. GMB senior organiser Lib Whitfield told Brighton and Hove News that whilst the workers of Brighton work hard to keep the streets clean, and “deliver a service, they’re being hampered by everything from vehicle breakdowns due to management not acting on defects, to inconsistent and unfair treatment.”  The potential strikes have been an ongoing issue. In October 2021, the streets of Brighton were littered with excess rubbish after workers went on strike for two weeks; issues within the public service industry are still unresolved and are ongoing. 

Though investigation is still ongoing, at the end of March 2024 the Brighton & Hove City Council was faced with two of their bin lorries being vandalised, with the cutting of the lorry’s wires putting them out of service. The vandalism caused a “drop in the reliability of our refuse and recycling collections in recent weeks”, Labour Councillor Tom Rowkins stated. Due to this suspected sabotage, the Council has invested money into four new electric bin lorries. With the addition of these new lorries , the residents of Brighton will get more reliable and efficient collections. This may suggest that this intentional act of sabotage was indeed an act of protest towards the council.  

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