The future of Galway City Council’s refuse collection service could be at risk - this was the concern expressed by many councillors who called for a public relations campaign to be launched after being informed that 125 customers per month, over the last four months, have been lost to competitors.
Director of services, Ciaran Hayes told councillors at a special meeting of Galway City Council that this year, up to the end of April, there has been a loss of 500 (4.5 per cent ) customers who have chosen to leave the council’s service and go to other providers. He added that despite the council introducing a new pricing structure for 2013, whereby no household pays in excess of €229 for the standard three bin system, a competitor has introduced a lower rate.
The high rate of abandonment was revealed following the circulation of the environment department’s quarterly report which stated that the council provides a three bin segregated waste collection service to more than 12,000 households in Galway City, in addition to a bulky goods collection service for the correct and safe disposal of items such as furniture and electrial appliances. The council also provides a waiver on refuse charges for more than 2,400 customers in the city.
“It is worrying that we are losing 125 customers per month, for the last four months,” said Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF ) who stressed that it “could have huge implications for the costing structure of the council, the devaluing and goodwill of the service”. “Are we going to deal with it? There are four customers lost every day,” he said.
This worry was shared by Cllr Tom Costello (Lab ), chair of the environment SPC, who noted that the household recycling rates are 72 per cent and that the service offered by the council is very good, however, “more needs to be done to promote it”. “The difficulty is in convincing the public. The end result is that we have a fantastic regime, we reduced the rates, and jobs were maintained. The bottom line is that the public have to be advised,” said Cllr Costello, who then called on the executive of the council to make a committment to meet the challenge head on and start a publicity drive.
Supporting the call for more publicity, Cllr Catherine Connolly (Ind ) said: “There are different companies competing out on the streets but we have an excellent service for less that €5 per week. We should be promoting it. I believe the vast majority of people will come back when they realise what is provided.”
Both Cllr Padraig Conneely (FG ) and Cllr Michael Crowe (FF ) acknowleged that it was economics and the search for a bargain that is prompting customers to leave. Cllr Crowe said: “Customers are changing over because the other providers are cheaper. If this continues the council will not be in the bin provider business in a year or two. It’s an absolute disgrace the way the service is operated and it is significantly impacting on our service and the people are leaving.”
The manner in which the service is operated was also picked up by Cllr Peter Keane (FF ) who described it as “nothing short of appalling” in that it is done when motorists are trying to get to work and drop children to school. He called for a system whereby the collection is more controlled and carried out at different times so that motorists are not stuck behind trucks and “held to ransom on a daily basis”.
Mr Hayes told councillors that there is on-going consideration given to the way the entire service is operated.
A motion proposed by Cllr Catherine Connolly was then carried calling on the council to pursue a public relations campaign to inform the public of the refuse service including the bulky goods.