Council websites should be clear about growing restrictions on use of council tips to avoid user frustration and abuse
Council websites should be more upfront about restrictions on public use of council tips in order to avoid turning people away and creating the sort of frustration that can lead to confrontation.
Results of the latest Better Connected survey [find out how to] Take rubbish to the tip, from local authority body Socitm, are being published shortly after the announcement in early February from Oxfordshire County Council that its tip workers are to be equipped with body worn cameras to protect them from abuse.
According to the survey report, waste and recycling services are among the most visible services councils run, affecting members of the public whose only other regular interaction with their authority may be paying council tax.
Resident satisfaction levels with local waste management can be a barometer for satisfaction with the council, and the tip experience may be some residents’ only face to face contact with ‘the council’.
The Better Connected survey report points out that the pressure of funding cuts and the need for council facilities to separate waste in order to meet recycling targets, means councils are introducing measures that can be unpopular with the public. These include charging residents for DIY waste, refusing entry to people who cannot prove they live in the area, or turning away people arriving in vans.
The report argues that given this background, councils should be doing all they can to publish and communicate clearly the local rules that apply to people using their tips. Results of the Take rubbish to tip survey are that 63% of English council websites are assessed as providing a good or very good service for this task.
Like all Better Connected surveys, the tip survey tested, from a user perspective, how easy it was to find key information and to interact with the associated service via the website. The tip survey focused primarily on finding tip locations, what items could and could not be taken to the tip, any restrictions on use, and contacting recycling organisations to dispose of things that might be reused.
One key piece of information the survey was seeking was whether residents could access the tip if they turned up in a rental van. This is a likely scenario for people moving house, where they might use a hire van to dispose of accumulated items they are not taking with them. Better Connected found that 41% of sites failed to be clear about this issue, potentially causing stress and inconvenience and possibly provoking abusive behaviour by those unaware of what might seem to be an unreasonable restriction.
With further restrictions seeming likely in future, including the requirement to have a permit to use the tip, to bring proof of residence when visiting the tip, or to pay a fee to dispose of DIY waste like plasterboard, councils need to provide very clear information on their websites, enabling efficient communication through other, online and offline channels.
Results of the survey Take rubbish to tip for 27 English county councils are now available. Individual councils can find their results from the council index page on the Better Connected website.
The council tip survey is the first of three Better Connected surveys on waste and recycling online. Publication of the findings of two other surveys, Order garden waste collection (covering district councils) and Find out about putting out rubbish for collection (all single tier councils) is expected in late February or early March.
These reports follows earlier ones on social care (English councils with responsibilities for adult social care) library services (Scottish and Welsh councils) and parking.
Notes for editors
Better Connected is owned and was originally developed by Socitm. Since May 2015 it has been run in partnership with Boilerhouse Communications.
Anyone can access ‘all-council’ reports and individual council headline results from surveys on the Better Connected website.
Full details of individual council reviews are available to Socitm subscribers only.