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Compensating residents for failures in waste & recycling contract

by Nigel Bakhai on 17 July, 2012

Please find below a copy of the text of my speech to the July 2012 council meeting in response to a Conservative motion calling for compensation to residents over the failures in the waste & recycling contract:-

Thank you Mr Mayor, I rise to second the Lib Dem amendment.

We all in this chamber accept that there have been considerable problems in the refuse and recycling service since the start of April. Nearly 4000 missed collections reported between 2nd April and 11th May is testament to that. I tried to get a ward breakdown of these figures, but I suspect both Elthorne and Southfield were two of the worst affected wards in the borough.

We have had the farce of all recycling and rubbish being collected in the same trucks and then having to explain to angry or disillusioned constituents why they are carefully sorting their recycling materials only for them to be mixed up when they are being collected or to have to explain to them that their recyclables are not going to landfill.

Enterprise and the council both have had lots of questions to answer in their handling of the changeover from May Gurney, particularly in relation to the lack of vehicles, the training and transfer of staff at the start of the contract. We were pleased that Enterprise came to the recent call in at the Overview & Scrutiny to acknowledge their part in this debacle and that a senior manager at Enterprise in charge of the contract has now been relieved of his duties. The focus of the Lib Dem council group, though, has been to hold Enterprise and the council to account for their failings but also to make sure this mess doesn’t happen again. To that end, we welcome the recent decision by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee to accept our recommendations to make sure that contingency plans are in place when changing over contractors and to improve communication with residents in the event of future problems. Rather than carping from the side-lines like the shadow spokesman, we have primarily aimed at building sensible and constructive solutions.

Instead of providing solutions we have this point scoring and self-congratulatory motion from the Tories on the subject. Cllr Taylor,  the public couldn’t care less about the political colour of the council collecting their bins, they just want a good service. In addition, for the second meeting running, the Tories have submitted a motion demanding compensation for residents without giving any figures to tell us how much compensation they would offer or how it will be paid for. We all agree that our residents have been badly let down by the failings in the council’s handling of this contract, but are the Tories really expecting the Council to fund another cash back scheme to compensate residents at a time when the council is making huge cuts to services and the council budget? The Lib Dem council group were the only ones in this chamber who opposed their last cash back scheme and we would oppose any unfunded proposal like this which is only likely to result in either a rise in next year’s council tax or further cuts to services because ultimately it is the council tax payer who ends up footing the bill in the long run either by increased council tax or poorer services if they are expecting the council to pay. 

That is why we have made some practical suggestions in our amendment. If anyone should be made to pay any compensation it should be Enterprise just as they have been forced to do in Daventry DC and Northampton. Certainly Enterprise are already paying a price in terms of the fact that they are having to pull in additional resources from their other contracts around the country. However, our amendment suggests that they could also do more to, for example, provide additional recycling services for free. In particular, we would like to see more mixed recycling bins in our parks and on our streets. We also think it would not only be a gesture of good will but also some positive publicity for Enterprise to be seen to be supporting worthwhile causes in the borough, such as the Mayor’s 3 charities – Dementia concern, Ealing Samaritans & British Institute for Brain Injured Children.

I urge you to support our amendment, but I suggest the best thing that Enterprise and the council can do and what our residents want most of all is to get our streets cleaned and get the rubbish and recycling collected.

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