Just when city council activity seemed to be grinding to a halt the Government pulled a rabbit from the hat by awarding Birmingham almost £30 million to help it follow just about every other local authority in the region and adopt a wheelie bin scheme.
The decision whipped our local elected representatives into a frenzy of activity as they pontificate, debate and discuss what is the most visible and widespread of council services.
The issue also has the benefit of crossing party boundaries as authorities of all political leanings have adopted wheelie bins over the last 15 years, while Birmingham – under various political leaderships – has steadfastly refused until now.
But thanks to the ‘generosity’ of the Department for Local Government, the wheelie bin is no longer an unaffordable pipe dream.
The freedom this affords councillors is immense. As one suggested: “We’ll oppose wheelie bins in wards where they are unpopular, and support them in areas where they are wanted.”
So we have had a flurry of leaflets, surveys and polls by door knocking councillors and would-be councillors, asking residents for their views.
The Conservative policy proposal is that wheelies be introduced on a request basis only. Under this proposal, two wagons might have to collect from roads with mixed opinions.
Although very costly to run, this has the benefit of keeping everyone happy – except dust cart round managers.
Liberal Democrat Jon Hunt, who has tabled a motion for debate on the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting, said 90 per cent of residents in his Perry Barr ward were opposed to wheelies, and 81 per cent claimed they could not cope with any of the plastic ‘monstrosities’ outside their houses.
This is odd as his ward shares boundaries with Sandwell where residents, living in similar housing stock, seem to cope with little fuss.
Liberal Democrat surveys also showed that 68 per cent of people in leafy Yardley, across the road from binned-up Solihull borough, could not cope.
Yet in Sparkhill, where there is dense terrace housing, that figure was a lower 62 per cent.
Coun Hunt said he also wanted comprehensive door-to-door surveys, commitments that elderly residents would not have to drag heavy bins about and a proposal that those homes without off street space should not be forced to have them – to avoid the scenes of blocked pavements in other areas.
Perhaps he could have suggested smaller bins for less wasteful elderly households.
Labour councillor Rob Pocock, like the Lib Dems, is a door-to-door survey specialist in his Sutton Vesey ward and has taken a similarly pragmatic approach to the issue, which he called the “Government’s bin bribe”.
His poll showed a 60-40 split against, with an added age divide - the older the resident the more opposed they were. Coun Pocock has backed a smaller bin for low waste households and assisted collections for the elderly and infirm.
Members of the former Conservative and Lib Dem coalition have the added problem that their plan for food waste collection was dropped from the bid once Labour took control of the city council.
The advice seemed to be that the bid would not succeed if it increased the number of bins for each house – minister Eric Pickles is not a fan of too many bins.
Another major city, Leeds, which went for the food waste collection in its £13 million bid, was rejected.
The Leeds bid seemed confused over the nature of a weekly residual waste collection which was a fundamental pillar of the Government scheme – they would have collected the scraps of food every week and the rest of the rubbish every two weeks.
Only small-scale food collection schemes were approved.
Far more popular, and endorsed by all sides, have proven the rewards for recycling projects, also being drawn up in Sandwell, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Dudley.
Loyalty reward points, or a bonus reward to community groups, charities or schools, will be given in return for someone filling a bin with tins and paper.
The bins are certain to be an issue from now until they are introduced next April, so at least there’s one thing all politicians can agree on.
Over the last couple of weeks, possibly prompted by rain and cloudy conditions, there have been a few shunts and prangs on the M6 or M5 motorways around Birmingham.
The traffic on our roads seems to this commuter to grow heavier on an almost daily basis.
Perhaps the economy is picking up, perhaps there are concerted efforts to fix the roads, or perhaps our transport bosses have no clue how to run an efficient road network.
But the congestion levels increase a hundred fold – not a scientific measure that – whenever a car breaks down or lorry jack-knifes on the motorway.
Thousands of drivers are slowed to a standstill on the M6 and others descend at a snail’s pace onto packed roads.
So Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip was on to something when he suggested nationalising the expensive and empty M6 Toll Road – it is an under-used economic asset.
After all, it was designed as the Birmingham relief road but in reality it has done nothing of the sort.