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Bins controversy has ‘generated as much unhappiness in the district as I have ever seen’, says leader of the opposition at South Kesteven District Council

As anyone with children will confirm, it is a truism that your family is only ever as happy as the least happy person,writes Councillor Graham Jeal, leader of the opposition on South Kesteven District Council.

This means that on holiday with my three children – I hold out for those brief moments where everyone is in high spirits. This is increasingly challenging as my children get older and their happiness needs stray beyond silly songs, wacky stories and my questionable Tommy Cooper impersonations.

This same fundamental principle seems to extend to larger groups. In the case of South Kesteven, it appears the recent vibe has been more gloom than glee. No local economic strategy, dwindling financial reserves, shouting over people in full council and a glaring absence of a plan to tidy up the A1 (has it ever looked dirtier?) have brewed discontent. But, shh, don't bring up litter – that might open a can of worms about bins.

Coun Graham Jeal
Coun Graham Jeal

South Kesteven District Council's rollout of the purple bins sparked a wave of disapproval. Before the rollout, we suggested a Full Council discussion to hash out the challenges - a common practice for issues affecting the entire district. There is (or was) a longstanding convention to discuss at full council issues that impact everyone. However, with the inexperienced hardcore ideologues leading the charge, they hurtled ahead with the purple plague.

And we've been slammed with a green bin tax hike, endorsed by the Council's Deputy Chairman, Coun Paul Fellows (Ind, Bourne), who begged to have the life taxed out of him (yes you did read that right). Even the Labour Party, despite solid arguments against such hikes in previous years, sided with the tax rise. In recognition of cost of living pressures, other councils froze their green bin charges.

But “peak unhappiness” came last week when the Rainbow Alliance of Labour, Independents and Greens adopted a hardline zero tolerance stance on recycling waste bin collection. An astonishing 6000 grey bins went uncollected generating as much unhappiness in the district as I have ever seen. A bunker mentality set in with the administration criticizing members of the public. News of this went national with Michael Gove – the Minister for Local Government urging leader Ashley Baxter to apologise to the residents. See for yourself: https://tinyurl.com/BinGate.

My heart sank for our hardworking staff who found themselves on the frontline of this hardline approach. Come wind, rain or shine, they diligently hit the streets at the crack of dawn to collect our bins, facing public ire for simply following orders.

I wonder if a Tommy Cooper magic trick could lighten the mood amidst the chaos.

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