7 October 2011

Outsourced recycling isn't pedalling hard enough

Mr Mustard's road is Big Society in action. When it comes to council matters it is well known that knocking on Mr Mustard's door for tea and a chat is the best option. In the last 2 weeks both Mr Mustard and a close neighbour have had trouble with recycling by May Gurney and the council - they are about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

So here is what my neighbour sent to Barnet Council

Date: Wed, Sep 28, 2011
Subject: Consistently inefficient service given by recycling firm.

Dear Sir/Madam

Our recycling bin was not emptied yesterday even though it was placed next to the opening to the front garden.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that I could write on a weekly basis concerning the very poor service given by your refuse collectors, if I could spare the time.

On a weekly basis:
1.    The recycling bin & lid are chucked into the front garden, sometimes onto the flower beds.

2.    The green bin is more often than not left just within the entrance to the front garden    obscuring access for the postman, visitors, etc.

3.    The normal rubbish bin is often left on the street.  On the occasion that the green bin is left in the entrance to the front garden the rubbish men do not empty the grey rubbish bin - as you know ************ Road has very small front gardens & it would not cause any difficulty for the rubbish collectors to move the green bin to access the grey one.

It is my understanding that it is illegal to obstruct the pavement with refuse bins.  Added to which the road is a busy thoroughfare to the High Street with many elderly people & parents with children using the street.

I have raised such issues before & it is apparent that your council officers do not regularly monitor the service given by the refuse collectors.

Yours faithfully,

Now if Mr Mustard was at the council he would tell May Gurney to pick her skirts up and get round to pick up the recycling on the same day. Did Barnet Council do that? no they didn't. This is their reply along with my neighbour's comment.
Just found this - why do I need a resumé of what I am supposed to do?????

Thank you for your email.
Your report of non collection of your recycling box(es) has been referred to May Gurney, who work in partnership with the council to provide the recycling services.

I have requested that your next scheduled collection is ensured. Please place your recycling box(es) on the boundary of your property by 7am.

Please note that all of the following items can be placed in the ‘Black Box’
• Glass bottles and jars (please rinse)
• Paper including Yellow Pages
• Shredded paper (please place this in a bag marked ‘shredded paper’)
• Car and household batteries
• Engine oil (in a sealed container)
• Mobile phones (please remove SIM card)
• Shoes (please place these in a bag to protect them)
• Textiles (please place these in a bag to protect them).

Please note that all of the following items can be placed in the ‘Blue Box’
• Plastic bottles (for example plastic milk bottles, shampoo bottles, washing up liquid bottles, please remove all bottle caps)
• Cardboard (please flatten boxes)
• Food tins and drinks cans (please rinse)
• Foil
• Aerosols (no spray paint cans or gas canisters).
• Tetra Pak cartons (please remove lids & flatten)
Please ensure you recycling boxes are presented on the boundary of your property by 7am.
Cardboard must be flattened and large pieces of cardboard must be ripped up to that they can fit in the blue box. If your blue box is full any additional cardboard can be tied in manageable bundles and left next to the blue box. Pieces in the bundle must be no bigger than the blue box. 

Other recyclables can be left in clearly labelled bags next to the boxes.
If you need to contact the council during this period regarding your enquiry, please quote your reference number [C.Reference]. For further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me or visit www.barnet.gov.uk

Thank you for your participation in recycling in Barnet.
Yours sincerely,

Gilbert Caspa
Customer Services Officer
Chief Executive Services

So the upshot of this email is:

May Gurney can't be bothered to come back and collect your recycling even though it is obviously what you want as otherwise you wouldn't have written.
"C.Reference" is not properly linked in the email.
May Gurney will try not to miss you again next week. 
Your box will of course be there by 7am as it is already there now.
Let's annoy you by telling you of the items that we have failed to collect this week. This is called preaching to the converted. Barnet Council are sanctimonious idiots.
Thank you for your participation! - a pity that Barnet Council don't participate enough.
For further assistance - but you haven't already been of assistance have you Mr GC?
Visit www.barnet.gov.uk - why, it's a useless site.
Chief Executive Services = Chief Executive's Service, presumably.

Now as it happens Mr Mustard received the same stupid email in response to his complaint and so he sent the following email which turned out to be a game changer.

Dear Mr Fielder 

Thank you for your email. What is the policy of the Council for dealing with missed blue/black box collections?

Yours sincerely 

because in response he received the following reply

Dear Mr Mustard

Thank you for your email which I am answering on behalf of my colleague Simon Fielder.

You will be aware that we have now been back and cleared your boxes. ( but only because I asked a pertinent question, a policy question - a question that I would not be allowed to ask at the Residents Forum - would you credit it! )

Our policy, where the crew are in the wrong (and they usually are), is to return ASAP to the clear the boxes assuming that the resident wishes us to do so. If the resident is happy to wait until the following week ( a question that you don't ask them but make the assumption for them ) then we will simply ensure that it gets collected without fail the next collection and thereafter. (  of course the crew are in the wrong, they failed to collect the boxes. Of course the resident wants them emptying, that's why he/she put the boxes out for collection and then chased you. Thereafter is a long time. The boxes will be missed again. )

We also have a supervisor’s checklist which we add “problem” addresses too. This means that a supervisor visits after the regular crew to check that the bins have been cleared or if there are not any problems. ( Mr Mustard would be very surprised if he wasn't a problem address & expects that the list is a long one - why not ask to be added? )

Kind Regards ( Kind regards, a bit over-familiar, Mr Mustard isn't one of your mates )
Recycling Assistant
Waste & Sustainability Team
Environment, Planning and Regeneration

So the conclusion which Mr Mustard reaches is that Barnet Council have decided that they won't bother going back to collect over-looked recycling unless the resident specifically asks for it.

My neighbour had to write again to the council and this is what she sent.

Dear Mr Gilbert

Thank you for responding to my email concerning the inefficient service we experience by the various refuse collection companies appointed by the Council.

I felt that your response was extremely inappropriate as it did not respond to the issues raised in my email quite apart from the fact that you did not have the courtesy to apologise that the recycling bin had not been emptied nor for the poor service we are consistently exposed to.

I did not require a list from you outlining what could & could not be collected.  I already have the Council's information concerning this as I believe recycling to be critical.

Please would you send me the name & contact details of the Director of the Council's Customer Services Department, by return.

Yours sincerely,  

Another unhappy resident. It's not difficult to collect recycling is it?

You know what to do residents. When your recycling is not collected, scream blue murder, or at least ask for it to be taken within 24 hours. It will be & if it isn't send another email to firstcontact@barnet.gov.uk and send an email every 24 hours until the problem is solved.

This is an example of how badly outsourced services are monitored. Very badly. What chance is there that the outsourcing of just about everything will be well done and properly monitored? none at all.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. dear, dear, Mr Mustard: you just can't get the staff these days, can you? Why can't your butler simply wait outside in recycling days, hand them the box, and then return it to the Mustard household, no doubt after being cleansed & polished, ready for the next lot of pizza delivery packaging?

  2. I think you must have been sitting outside Mra A. There is a pizza box in the recycling today ( special offer from Waitrose on some Pizza Express pizzas, 2 for £4 ) but I do wish to point out that I have never had pizza delivered to the house. It's just not right.

  3. Yes, since our bloggers' divorce, I have been stalking you, and observing your recycling arrangements from the end of the road, with a pair of binoculars. I have been reporting regularly to May Gurney your recycling crimes, putting engine oil in the blue box, and depilatory cream aerosols in the black one, hence the need for the council to remind you of the rules.


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.