No maintenance apology despite ‘summer of chaos’

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The Glasgow City Council chief responsible for bin collections and park maintenance repeatedly ignored requests to apologise for a “summer of chaos” which left areas of the city in an “absolute state”.

Tory councillors Kyle Thornton and Tony Curtis asked Anna Richardson, city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, to say sorry to residents who were impacted, during a full council meeting.

However, she disregarded their pleas, choosing to thank the people of Glasgow for their patience instead.

Throughout the summer, council workers and residents reported issues with maintenance services as absence levels soared. Parks workers said they were sent to help cleansing teams with refuse collections and bulk uplift – leaving them without time to carry out their own duties.

Cllr Thronton said: “Parks across the city were in an absolute state, there were people who waited seven or eight weeks for their bins to be emptied. This is a failure of basic services in the city, not just little problems to be solved.”

He asked the convener to apologise to residents and commit to identifying additional resources to combat the issues.

But Ms Richardson said: “I appreciate that members had concerns about service delivery over recent months when high levels of absence over the summer led to operational decisions to prioritise cleansing services over grass cutting.

“While this was not always ideal it was a pragmatic and temporary response to the situation and grass cutting services are now back to their usual schedule.”

She said the council was rolling out new street bins as well as replacing back court bins and its “ageing fleet”.

The authority revealed last week that £805,000 would be spent on converting 23 winter gritters to dual fuel hydrogen as it aims for a zero emissions vehicle fleet.

Ms Richardson added a new neighbourhood model, which sees the same team allocated the same route every collection day, had been introduced.

New systems “require a period of adjustment for everyone, including residents,” she said, adding there had now been a reduction in complaints.

She said she would be making the case for more resources when budget negotiations begin.

Ms Richardson also acknowledged service difficulties, adding: “It’s inevitable that there are some teething troubles with any major service change.

This had combined with a peak in staff absence rates and parking controls being installed which had caused access issues.

Mr Curtis then followed up with a second question, asking her to apologise again. People “care about their bins being collected, that’s the first thing we need to get right,” he said.

Ms Richardson said: “I have acknowledged several times that there have been more missed bins than usual and that is something that will reduce as the new process comes in.”

A Labour Group motion called on the council to write to the Scottish Government to explain the impact “falling budgets” have had on the city.

However, a SNP amendment, supported by the Greens, was voted through.

Labour’s Matt Kerr had said: “Over the summer every elected member I know would have been inundated with complaints about the standards of service.

“That’s not a reflection on the workforce, all of us would accept these are hard working people. There just isn’t enough of them.”