By Adam Morton - Local Democracy Reporter
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to explore the possibility of having its waste management team lift additional black bin bags following a proposal put forward at its monthly meeting in September.
At the meeting on Monday, September 26, Alderman Stephen Moutray proposed that from Wednesday, September 28, all properties with black or blue bins be entitled to have two additional black bin bags collected for two bin cycles so that everyone can be rid of the rubbish gathering around their homes.
His proposal was seconded by the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Tim McClelland. However, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield, advised that under standing orders, any proposal that commits council to expenditure cannot be taken in the 'any other business' section of the meeting and advised it would be taken to committee for further exploration.
The proposal also caused bemusement in the chamber with UUP group leader, Alderman Jim Speers and Sinn Fein Councillor, Keith Haughian both accusing Alderman Moutray of being "disingenuous" with his proposal.
Addressing the chamber, Alderman Moutray claimed council has sustained "considerable reputational damage" as a result of recent industrial action resulting in its failure to "deliver adequate, essential services to our ratepayers".
He also pointed out how there "seems to have been, at times, a variation of levels of service across the borough" and claimed in some areas black bin bags have been lifted.
"Many folk over this past number of weeks have sorted waste at home and stored it," said Alderman Moutray.
"Then this week they find out they can still be a week away from having a blue bin collection. These same people then see others dumping waste in public locations and it seems the people who have looked after their waste at home are being penalised.
"This is a humanitarian request and it is to alleviate the plight of some people who don't have vehicles to get to utility sites and are actually trapped with the rubbish and waste at home."
With the proposal seconded by Councillor McClelland, the local authority's interim strategic director of neighbourhood services, Jonathan Hayes, said that as this proposal is likely to incur a cost to council he would recommend it goes to committee for further discussion.
Alderman Speers said he found it "strange" the DUP had such urgency on this issue and claimed if council had followed a proposal put forward by the party last week "we would still be in the process of having a discussion about the strike".
"I want to see the place cleaned up and I don't suspect there is anyone here that does not but I am not so sure if the proposal that was put forward last week would have reached a conclusion as yet and we would still have a strike on our hands.
"In any event, I am happy that it goes to committee but I do think it a bit disingenuous to have a proposal of that nature bearing in mind what was said last week."
Councillor Haughian said he was "in complete agreement" with Alderman Speers and described the proposal as a "shocking and pretty pathetic attempt at gaining some sort of political support".
"It has been described as disingenuous and I agree," said Cllr Haughian.
"I just want to put on record our officers have clearly spelt out to all who would have been in favour, in theory, of doing something like this why it could not be done.
"There are operational reasons why black bags could not be lifted and it would have had a knock on impact on the ability to provide an on the calendar rota of service. That is why there was an urgency to try and bring this strike to an end.
"I find the proposal disingenuous but I am happy to bring it to committee to understand the implications of this proposal."
In response to these comments, Alderman Moutray said he was disappointed to be called disingenuous by Alderman Speers and claimed that if the decision is delayed another week "it won't be worth doing".
"I have always come to this council with the best will to do the best for the rate payers," he said.
"We will see what they think when it comes to April and May and they get their inflated bills because of a decision that was taken last week. I am proud that my party was not part of that decision.
"In relation to the officer's response, if we leave this another week it won't be worth doing quite frankly, so my proposal stands."
SDLP group leader, Councillor Thomas O'Hanlon then reminded the chamber council's standing orders do not allow the proposal to stand.
DUP group leader, Alderman Mark Baxter said the chamber made a decision last week to bring forward a deal that has ended the period of industrial action before stating it is "time to move on and clean the place up".
"There are bin teams lifting black bags even though the advice is not to. I commend them for doing it but all we are asking for is that maybe there is an instruction goes out that they lift a couple of bags," he said.
"I saw guys out in Donaghcloney village the other day lifting stuff they probably should not have been and fair dues to them. All we are asking is that an instruction goes out so they can do it in measured way.
"They were able to do it in Mid Ulster District Council, two bags per lift without any extra resources being used. We are not asking for a whole lot, just more uniformity and less disparity across the borough.
"It would be a good news story that we are trying to help the ratepayer because on top of all the confusion, people just want rid of their waste."
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