Man files legal action against council after garden waste collections hit by coronavirus measures

Town hall chiefs are facing legal action over their decision to suspend garden waste collections due to coronavirus.

Bosses at South Tyneside Council decided to halt the service to free up staff to focus on delivering ‘critical frontline services’ during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Council chiefs have called for “patience and understanding” as they focus on helping vulnerable people, and are working “tirelessly” to provide essential services with fewer staff.

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But one resident unhappy with the move is prepared to pursue the borough through the courts to get his cash back.

Mike Smith, 50, from Hebburn, said he had become frustrated when trying to get answers over when pick-ups might resume and what will happen to the money he has already paid

“I signed up to the bin service in January (2020) and I received an email [this month (April) advising me the service had been suspended,” said Mr Smith, an auditor.

“I wasn’t very keen on that, there was no date or plan for when they’re going to resume the service and they have not provided the service I have paid for.

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“I asked for my money back and they’re basically not doing it.

“They’re not giving people the option to get their money back, they haven’t decided what they’re doing with the service – it’s ridiculous.”

The borough council runs a garden waste service every year, running from April – November.

According to terms and conditions for the 2020 scheme, this should include ‘a minimum of 16 green waste collections per household’, with subscribers charged £32 per bin.

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Green bin pick-ups had been expected to start the week beginning March 30, but instead bosses put it on hold and barred new customers from signing up.

Mr Smith has said he would be prepared to accept a partial refund, depending on the number of collections which are eventually carried out.

However, a Q&A page on the council’s website gives no firm answer to this and instead asks households to ‘bear with us while we consider our options’.

The website adds it is ‘too early to consider that we would not provide a service at all’.

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A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We decided to suspend the garden waste service to allow us to divert resources to the most critical frontline services.

“We recognise that people have paid for collections and may now only receive part of the service this season.

“We will be looking at this issue once services return to normal.

“Although we have fewer staff as a result of the virus, we are working tirelessly to provide essential, statutory services.

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“Our priority has to be helping vulnerable people and those in financial hardship.

“We would urge people to show patience and understanding during these unprecedented and incredibly challenging times.”

Mr Smith has submitted a claim through the ‘Online Civil Money Claims’ service seeking £32 from the council to cover the cost of his green waste subscription.

According to his claim, Mr Smith says he has not been told when the service is likely to resume, that did not agree to any ‘amended terms or conditions’ and therefore no longer considers himself a customer.

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A spokesman for South Tyneside Council confirmed it had received the claim.