Barnet Council is finally getting on top of the bin problems that have plagued the borough – at a cost of around £250,000 on extra staff and resources.

The council’s environment chief yesterday (Monday, January 21) told councillors the waste collection service did not miss any rounds during the previous week and had witnessed a dramatic fall in the number of complaints received.

It comes after more than two months of missed collections that led to the build-up of a ‘garbage mountain’ on one estate and sparked calls for the chairman of the council’s environment committee to quit.

The changes to collection routes were rolled out on November 4 as part of a shake-up designed to save £750,000 a year.

Speaking at a meeting of the environment committee, Jamie Blake, strategic director of environment, told councillors: “In week 11, last week, we cleared everything day after day. Complaints went down dramatically.”

He added: “Some crews are still out now after 7pm, but we are confident we are getting back on an even footing.”

Mr Blake admitted the council had found agency staff difficult to get hold of over the Christmas period and this had led to delays and missed collections.

He said the council “effectively forgot to put a crew out” at the Grahame Park estate – where the ‘garbage mountain’ built up – because the situation was so hectic.

The 'garbage mountain' at Grahame Park (Photo: Zara Winstone)

Staff have now cleared out the bin chambers at some blocks of flats after they filled up over the Christmas period due to missed collections.

Mr Blake said: “I would like to thank the staff. There are a lot of staff who worked very hard over the Christmas period, but I do apologise for the inconveniences it has caused to members of the public.

“We have got things in a much better condition now.”

But the environment chief admitted that the final bill for bringing the service up to scratch would end up at around a quarter of a million pounds after extra staff and resources were brought in to tackle the problems.

He added that he believed the projected savings would eventually be delivered.

The update followed a dispute between Labour and Conservative councillors over whether members of the public could question the committee about the bin problems.

Labour environment spokesman Cllr Alan Schneiderman said he had expected a written report on the bin collections to be brought to the meeting – meaning members of the public would be allowed to ask questions on the topic.

But as Mr Blake gave a verbal update, public questions on waste collections were not permitted.

Cllr Schneiderman said: “We did expect it would be a fully agendad [sic] item, so members of the public would be able to ask questions and comment on an issue that is of significant interest across the borough to residents and council staff.”

Cllr Schneiderman called for a suspension of the council’s rules to permit questions on the topic but was told it would be against the local authority’s constitution.

A written report on the refuse service is due to be considered at the next meeting of the environment committee in March.