Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Bin police' caught using ladders to spy on householders


A council has sent staff equipped with ladders on spying missions to check whether householders are using more than one wheelie bin for their non-recyclable rubbish.

The officials have been spotted scaling ladders all over Blackburn, Lancs, so they can peer over walls and fences into back yards.

If they see an "unauthorized" second bin, they retrieve it and take it back to a council depot.

At least one householder has called police to report her bin stolen, oblivious to the fact that it had simply been reclaimed.

The local council insists its policy of only allowing one rubbish bin per household for non-recyclable waste is necessary to cut down on landfill costs and boost recycling.

However, critics have condemned the "spying" missions, describing them as "ridiculous" and "over the top".

Abdul Patel, a Labour councillor, said "This is ridiculous. How can you spy on people using a ladder?

"It would frighten people. They should knock on the door and show their ID. I am really shocked and will take it up with the council".

Doretta Cocks, founder of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collections, said: "The term 'bin police' is very much justified here.

"Councils do need to deal with wheelie bin thefts, but this is definitely not the way to deal with the problem.

"If it happened to me I would call 999. It's just not on".

She added: "You have to wonder how much time and money is going into this. It's small wonder our council taxes are going up every year".

Hazel Wilson, 67, challenged two council staff when she spotted them in an alleyway.

"One was carrying a ladder and putting it up against back yard walls one by one. The other man was taking notes.

"I asked them what they were doing and they said some people had more than one black bin, and if they did they were removing it.

"They had a lorry parked nearby. I thought 'What if an old lady was doing the washing up and this man peered over the fence".

"It would give you an awful shock. If I was in my garden trying to catch some sun and some Peeping Tom popped his head over the hedge I would call the police".

Miss Wilson's encounter came on the same day that police were alerted to the "theft" of a wheelie bin in a nearby street.

Senior staff at Blackburn with Darwen Council have now apologized for the "spying" missions. However, they insist that their policy of allowing only one rubbish bin per household is necessary.

Alan Cottam, executive member for regeneration and environment, said: "The council does remove unauthorised bins where they are found and have recently been carrying out checks to see how many are in the borough.

"On this occasion, the officers were over-zealous and the council apologies for the upset caused".

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