West Lothian implement cuts to recycling centres

Friday April 28th 2023

Oakbank-Recycling-Centre

Oakbank recycling centre in West Lothian.


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

West Lothian’s five recycling centres will move to reduced hours with a booking system for customers from September following agreement by the council’s Executive.

Opposition councillors predicted a surge in fly-tipping and claimed a move to booking slots would exclude the elderly and those unfamiliar with technology from being able to use the service.

Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) are to have their opening hours and staff numbers cut in half – in a bid to maintain the service despite savage budget cuts.

The centres will be open for 144 hours a week – down from 280 – and nine of the 18 staff members will have to be redeployed. A booking system will also be set up for all vehicles attending the site.

The changes will mean two of the centres will only open for one day during the week.

The option supported by Operational Services and backed by councillors will help save £336,000 towards the £39m of cuts the council has been forced to make in this year’s budget.

A report presented to the Executive on Tuesday set out current usage data, highlighting that the majority of visits to recycling centres take place between 10am and 5pm. The change will ensure that at least two sites are open between these hours each day.

Data highlights that 85% of all visits to West Lothian’s sites are made at three sites: Oakbank, Whitburn and Blackburn. This has influenced the recommendation to keep these sites open more days than the sites at Linlithgow and Broxburn which are least used and only account for 15% of visits between them.

Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days for the CRCs with mid-week (Wednesday and Thursday) being less popular. All CRCs will continue to be open on weekends.

Councillor Carl John told the meeting he was concerned that many over 75’s don’t use computers and would struggle to make bookings using the contact centre as was suggested by head of operational Service Jim Jack as he answered questions.

He told the meeting: “A lot of elderly people say when they ring the number, it rings for ages and they never get through, so that would discourage people from using it. How do we get around that for mainly elderly people?”

Councillor John also suggested that when the sites moved to restricted opening hours before there had been a surge in dumping around the site entrances and elsewhere in the county.

Mr Jack said fly-tipping was a concern but added: “it is not a concern that manifested itself in any major way the last time we made changes.”

He added: “It’s a national issue that everyone is keen to get addressed, I don’t see it necessarily linked to the CRC hours. Most of these people do not bother about accessing the CRC sites at the moment.”

Officials have argued that the plan maintains five operational sites and points out neighbouring Falkirk, with a similar population, maintains just two recycling centres.

Angela Doran-Timson, Conservative for the Broxburn, Uphall and Winchburgh ward backed complaints made by fellow councillors from the SNP at previous meetings about the reduction of hours at Broxburn.

She tried to raise a motion suggesting the council adopted another option which would change proposed hours. The Governance Manager James Millar ruled this inadmissible because of financial implications.

SNP group depute leader Robert De Bold questioned how this could be so given that officials have yet to finalise discussions with union officials, so finances have yet to be finalised.

Delivering the report to the Executive Mr Jack said: “Key to this will be managing the workforce change aspects of the opening pattern which is to be implemented.

“Following an approved proposal, Recycling & Waste Services staff will initiate a communication strategy that will include: training and briefing CRC staff, briefing existing CRC staff on the changes to enable them to engage with the site users, providing short information cards for handing out to site users, site signage, website information, social media releases and articles within Bulletin.[The council’s online newspaper]

“All of these routes for communication will help to enable the transition to the new opening hours to take place as effectively as possible. It is intended that the new hours will be in place from September following a period of organisational change.”

Lawrence Fitzpatrick, council leader, chairing the meeting, said local authorities of all political colours had been forced to cut back recycling services.

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