Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to run a country: start with emptying bins

The first summer that I spent in the Draughty Old Fen was rather hot - especially so for a Glasgow boy. Once, I forgot to leave the rubbish-bag out for the weekly collection. So I left it in the shed and, when it was time to put it out for the next week, went to fetch it in the dark. At first it slipped out of my grasp, so I put the light on - and to my horror saw the source of the slime: a line of maggots (some newly deceased) emerging from a small hole near the top.

Now we have twice-weekly collections, alternately of household rubbish and paper, tins, glass etc. There's a lot of houses in Cambridge city that are terraced with tiny gardens that are having trouble storing rubbish; so yesterday, Cambridge Conservative Party's Parliamentary Spokesman, Richard Normington, proposed a commonsense solution: go back to weekly collections. click to go to Richard Normington's homepage

I last saw Richard last Saturday at an Autumn lunch party held in St Edmund's College, in the Okinaga Room, which is the highest point in Cambridge. I didn't notice this at first, as I was too busy being annoyed by the pain from my twisted ankle. Then Richard gestured towards the panoramic window occupying six walls of the octagonal room, and the view took my breath away. All of Cambridge between the Room and the Gog Magog hills was laid out below me, and I realised what a beautiful city it was.

After drinkclick to go to Eric Pickles' homepages we had some shepherd's pie, following which Eric Pickles MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government spoke. In a broad Yorkshire accent he iterated the point David Cameron has made, that we're not Ukip-lite, although the country, he said, needs our unique view on Europe.

Pickles' profile came to national prominence during the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, where Labour Party activists presented the Conservatives as "toffs" - a strategy which backfired spectacularly, to such an extent that Pickles later commented that he thought the Labour activists were working to get the Tories elected!

There are now 9,900 Conservative Councillors in Great Britain, and Eric stated it was time to move the left-of-centre consensus which served the purpose of getting some officers promoted just a little rightwards. He also took a question from a teenage girl concerned about standards of spelling in school, and in his answer referred (delicately) to a recent English exam where a pupil was awarded marks for answering a question merely with an expletive

Following on from that, academic, businessman and author Dr Simon Mitton spoke about the necessity for universities not to be "dumbed down"; they need to produce graduates who can cut it in the world of work, and they need to maintain their own reputation. I suppose that if schools were relieved of the burden of having to teach to the test, then quality graduates would not be the only benefit; we'd also get shop-assistants who can count, office-workers who can write letters, and people who can come back from work and enjoy a good book.

Richard Normington wrapped the thing up by echoing Eric Pickles' point that in local government we can show the country that a Conservative Government can be trusted, then went to be with his wife Stacey, who's just over nine months pregnant.

One of the many things I think you can trust the Conservatives to do is to come up with a commonsense solution to problems. Take the twice-weekly bin collections I referred to at the start. Liberal Democrat Councillor Colin Rosentiel, who heads the collection services, says that the option of weekly services is not an option. I don't doubt his liberal credentials, but his democratic ones are a bit dodgy - the recent Cambridge survey on collections didn't even have an option for weekly collections.

The start of a strategy might be gotten by, say, looking at the page on flies and bluebottles on the website of the Labour-dominated Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council which says: in hot conditions the time taken for eggs of the fly to become maggots and then a fly could be as little as 7 days, then continues: the source of the infestation should be removed. In other words, get your heads together and make the necessary financial adjustments to restore weekly bin collections.

All the best of luck to Richard and Stacey.

click to go to The Conservative party homepage


  1. We have weekly collections, but the city has given everyone large bins which don't need to be lifted by human labor - the truck does the lifting. There are also biweekly recycling pick-ups. For our family, that's sufficient, but I notice it is not for others. They seem to buy more than we do; large boxes bulge from the bins. (Flies are bad here too, in summers - 98 F is a normal high temp. I wonder if weekly collections are really sufficient.)

    Government there sounds more accessible than it appears to be here. I look forward to checking the weblinks you've provided.

  2. Local gevernment's quite accessible, but nationally a lot of Britain's laws are made by the European Union, so the House of Commons is lafgely sidelined.

    I was fascinated by the bins you spoke about - so do they stay in the same position all the time?

  3. We have an apartment in Nice France. Our refuse is collected every day, six days a week, during the night. Collections alternate between trash and recycling. The French authorities are great at recycling - there are communal skips everywhere. Also, in France the authorities have established 'decheteries' in every district / parish, for your 'dechets' (trash). These are not 'tips', but facilities with loads of large skips where you sort out your household rubbish into numerous categories.

  4. Astounding - ! the French collection. No one here wants to spend for the manpower.

    The bins are wheeled, and we're supposed to put them out of sight most of the week. (Apparently, behind a tree on the driveway qualifies.) They are a durable plastic, so not very heavy, but there is rampant theft of them - ours was stolen twice in one month.
    The city charges for extra bins, and it seems there's a sort of black market on them....

  5. Simon - thanks for your comment. It's amazing what can be done when the will is there! I lived in Switzerland for a short while - I can't remember what the rubbish collections were like, but if people were throwing away furniture, the pieces were taken to local depositories to see af anybody would like to take them before they were disposed of.

    Pam - I love "The French Collection!" I hope I get a chance to use it as a title someday!



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