The political row over the failure of some councils to collect the rubbish is escalating. Cllr Pete Edwards, the Labour leader of Exeter City Council has said that the mounting rubbish piled up in the alleyways and roadsides of his city is "not a major problem."
A third of the seats in Exeter are up for election on May 5. So the voters can give their verdict then.
Local Government Minister Bob Neill has written to Council leaders urging them to do better.
As local government leaders you know that a regular bin collection is one of the most basic services council taxpayers pay for. Yet many families, who have already seen council tax more than double in the last 13 years, 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.
As a result a potentially unhealthy backlog of waste is piling up on many streets.
I understand the combination of severe snow and the festive break created a major headache for many councils and I pay tribute to the refuse collectors and other staff that have braved severe conditions to make their rounds. Nonetheless it is clear that there is widespread public concern at the extent of the disruption to collections.
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. Families who have been told to stockpile their rotting refuse inside their own homes by councils are entitled to wonder if their council views the rubbish collection as just a favour not a right. And the public deserve a better answer than 'this is not a major problem'.
Whilst I recognise that this is not the view of most authorities, given these circumstances I think it would be wise to encourage your members to find ways to explain to their residents what action they are taking to tackle the backlog and how they plan to demonstrate that they will maintain this necessary service over upcoming Easter bank holidays.
I am sure that we all agree that the country deserves high quality waste and recycling services that meet local needs. The Government stands ready to work with the LGA and councils to ensure this happens.
We have already stripped away the Audit Commission guidance that pressured English councils into fortnightly bin collections. At the same time we will give the public a greater voice to say when they are not satisfied through the power to challenge basic council services under our Localism Bill. Against this background the clear demonstration of a "can-do" approach to basic services by us all is all the more vital.
The Daily Telegraph reports that incentives to return to weekly collections could include help in renegotiating contracts. Another is more freedom for councils to charge for other services.
The report adds:
The Government is keen to mirror the success of a voucher scheme trialled by Windsor and Maidenhead council which has rewarded families who recycle more.
Liam Maxwell, a councillor at Windsor and Maidenhead, said: “We will never consider going back to two weeks because it is unhygienic and our residents don’t want it.
Referring to the plan to assist councils in the procurement of private contracts, he said: "That is the sort of practical, effective help any council, no matter how fixated on fortnights, would find difficult to