What a lot of rubbish!

The most important public health initiatives have not been in the field of medicine, as important as discoveries like antibiotics have been, but have occurred in the areas which are far less technical; the provision of clean water and a good and efficient system of waste disposal. Sewers have brought immense public health benefits as have the regular collection of household rubbish.

In the United Kingdom the responsibility for collecting rubbish is that of the local authority. People pay their local council taxes and expect that the rubbish is regularly collected. The local taxes pay for the collection of rubbish, other important services and for the administration of things like rubbish collection. All of this administration is supervised by a Chief Executive (they used to be called Town Clerks) who get paid extremely highly for their services. The theory that these Chief Executives promulgate is that you have to pay a lot of money to get people of talent. These people of talent do important work, not physically soiling their hands to collect the rubbish, but organising its collection from afar.  If rubbish is not collected there is a public health risk, rather as there was in Georgian times when city streets were swamped with rubbish and cries of “gardez l’eau” announced an imminent street disposal and gentlemen and ladies held oranges to their noses to disguise the stench..

In recent years in order to save money but probably at the risk of public health some local authorities arranged for rubbish to be collected every fortnight, instead of every week. It seems that thirty years ago we could afford to collect rubbish weekly, but today, notwithstanding the very high wages that some local authorities pay their chief executives, there is only money to collect rubbish every fortnight.

If a rubbish collection is missed, due to perhaps bad weather, some householders will have a month’s supply of rubbish piled up outside their homes, often in black plastic bags, attract vermin and creating a health hazard.

The government has indicated that it intends to require local authorities to collect rubbish every week, and require them to abolish fortnightly collections. It seem odd that central government has to involve itself in such edicts when so many local authorities have so many talented (as we are assured) highly paid Chief Executives who ought to be able, with their talent, to understand that their duty is to collect rubbish, not to devise means of deferring the collection of rubbish at the risk of public health.


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