THE way Malvern Hills District Council introduced wheelie bins was not “open and transparent”, with “decisions being taken by an elite group”, claims a new report.
The switch to the wheeled bins for collecting recycling waste is one of the most contentious issues the council has faced in recent years.
The council received £1.67 million Government cash to help fund the new system, introduced last May.
It caused furious debates among councillors, and resulted in a series of official complaints and counter-complaints between elected members and senior officers.
Among the new report’s findings is, “there is a perception among some councillors and some members of the public the development of council policy is not open and transparent”.
It also says, “some members of the public and elected members felt decisions were being taken by an elite group of senior members and officers and they were being ‘bounced’ into a decision at the last minute”.
It says: “There was conflicting evidence on the extent to which members were aware of the proposals to introduce wheelie bins. Leading members and officers knew in February 2012; some other members were briefed in March 2012 and some said they did not know until July, when the council report was published.”
It points out a “lack of clarity”
about the roles of various policy groups, committees and working parties within the council.
Among its recommendations are “the council’s decision- making process should be more open and transparent”, and when it comes to fundamental changes to services, “members should be informed as soon as a proposal has been expressed in writing and in detail”.
It also says that “any funding bids for more than £100,000 should be subject to formal approval by executive committee to avoid bids driving policy”.
And another recommendation is that “reports and recommendations should be more explicit about what members are being asked to consider and what they are voting for or against”.
The report has been written by a group of councillors chaired by Councillor Jan Marriott.
They held a scrutiny day in November, in which they heard evidence from council members and senior staff.
Caroline Carver of Barnards Green, the only member of the public who gave evidence at the scrutiny day, said she was heartened by the report.
She said: “I’m encouraged by some of the recommendations for more openness but now it’s really up to how the executive committee and the full council deal with these recommendations.
“The problems outlined in the report are not unique to the wheelie bin issue.”
The report will go before the district council's overview and scrutiny committee next Tuesday at the Council Chamber, Avenue Road, starting at 6.30pm.