Bury Council has become the first in England to announce that from now on it will only be collecting rubbish once every three weeks. It previously collected rubbish once a fortnight and recycling once a month. Now it plans to pick up recycling more often, but leave residents with overflowing a smelly bins for even longer.
And there are concerns that this may set a precedent that other councils feel they can follow.
The Daily Mail reported that Bury Council announced the initiative in order to increase recycling rates by 50%. The Manchester Evening News added that the council is facing budget cuts of £32 million over the next two years, so there are also financial incentives for reducing rubbish collections.
Arguably a monthly collection of recycling was never going to work - not when recycling the basics can easily fill a box in a week - so something had to change. But this solution is drastic and unpopular.
PolicyThe move flies in the face of government policy - which is trying to encourage councils to go back to weekly collections. Eric Pickles took a stand on this issue at the end of 2012, saying: "The public pay a lot of money in council tax. I believe that people deserve proper frontline services in return and there is nothing more essential than regular rubbish and recycling collections."
ReactionThe move also flies in the face of what people want and expect from their council. The government's research shows that 95% of people want their rubbish collected weekly. As Pickles points out: "Rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their £120 a month Council Tax bill. People deserve a comprehensive weekly service in return for their taxes."
Residents told the Mail they were alarmed by the potential for attracting more rodents and causing an anti-social nuisance with the smell.
The reaction on social media has been one of fury. One Twitter user said: "Dear @BuryCouncil if you collect the bins every 3 weeks I will post every dead rat my cats bring me through the town hall letterbox." Another Tweeted a picture of a dead mouse by their wheelie bins and said: "Welcome to Bury where the council are negotiating to twin us with Hamlyn". On Facebook opponents have set up a campaign to persuade the council to reverse the decision. So far the page has had more than 3,500 'likes'.
One major concern is that if Bury gets away with this move, other councils will soon follow. Already half of all councils only collect rubbish every two weeks. Falkirk council in Scotland was the first to move to a three-weekly collection in May this year, Gwynedd council in Wales will follow later in the year. Bury plans to make the change in October.