The Cabinet meeting earlier this week was more interesting than budget setting meetings
usually are because the decision taken at the start directly affected the
decision taken later. More precisely the changes to recycling (a big one or a
piddling little one) would in effect set the Council Tax rate.
As such 100% of the Labour Councillors showed up to see the drama played out, plus 16 Conservative Councillors and five members of the public. Most buzzed off home before it finished.
It was good to see the Steward’s Wall absent again. It signified the divide between Bexley Council and its residents and after four consecutive barrier absences one must assume that we are seeing a kinder gentler form of politics in Bexley. © Jeremy Corbyn.
Cabinet Member for Bins Peter Craske had been furiously Tweeting in the days before the meeting that he needed to be bold as the Conservatives were in 2007 when they rearranged recycling in a way that was seen as unpopular at the time but drove the recycling rate to unprecedented levels.
Be bold again he said, it paid off last time and being bold again meant saving £1·3 million a year by collecting residual waste every three weeks.
What else did he say to justify the change? Rubbish collection is something that affects everyone and the Council Leader reminded everyone of that.
Director David Bryce-Smith the Chief Binman was asked to give some details of the collection schemes that could be implemented. Overall he wanted to improve the recycling rate and tackle the problem of wind blown litter.
Both options include “retaining weekly food collection but moving from the current weekly dry recycling in three boxes to two weekly dry recycling with two wheelie bins. One for paper and cardboard and one for plastics cans and glass. Glass would no longer be collected separately”.
“Two options were considered for collecting residual waste [the green bin], one was moving from two weekly collection to three weekly and where that has been done elsewhere experience shows that it leads to a significant improvement in recycling levels and we expect that would move us closer to 60%. It delivers the highest financial savings, nearly £1·3 million. However there were a lot of objections from residents.”
“The other option retains two weekly residual waste collection but we hope there might be some modest improvement in recycling but a reduced level of saving. Those are the two options for Members to make a decision on.”
“In either case the contract with Serco will need to be extended for eighteen months.”
The choice was between the bold decision advocated by Cabinet Member Craske on Twitter or a minor adjustment of the status quo to stop bin box lids being blown down the street.
Cabinet Member Craske set about confirming that he favoured the three weekly deal for residuals.
First he thanked the Council officers for their “forward thinking”. (Ah, he is going for the bold option isn’t he?)
However he admitted that the consultation labelled the new arrangement as “barmy, will lead to fly tipping everywhere, our bins will be overflowing and it will attract flies and maggots and 75% of respondents opposed the plan in a News Shopper poll”.
“But they are not the consultation responses from just now they are the responses we got in 2007 but we put forward the changes from what we had then to what we have now. The reason was to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount going to landfill and here we are eleven years later with a simple scheme that residents got right behind.”
“If we hadn’t taken that decision then we would be paying £3·6 million a year more for the cost of running the service and £11 million in landfill charges. It was a bold decision.” (That’s it then; a clear indication that Councillor Craske is going to be bold again and look after the taxpayers’ hard earned pounds.)
The percentage of residents objecting to the changes now is much the same as in 2007 “but it is part of our job to be bold”. (There, he has said it again.)
About the renewed comments about flies and maggots he said “they made no sense because there is no proposal to change the food waste collections at all and never have been. 50% of the residual waste could be recycled and most of it is food waste.”
(So all the criticisms are answered, Craske is going for three weekly collections isn’t he? It’s the only thing that makes sense.)
“Turning to the options, food waste will remain exactly as it is now. No change at all.”
“Turning to recycling collection, moving to wheelie bins makes perfect sense The boxes are too small. We will make that change. Paper will be collected one week; glass, plastic and tins will be collected in the other week.” (Three cheers for that!)
“Turning to the residual waste collection the recommendation is to leave it as it is or move to a three weekly collection. 75% of people opposed three weekly collection but as I said earlier, in 2007 there was a similar response then and no one can say our decision in 2007 was the wrong one. It is our job to look at things for four or five years ahead. (Here we go. Wait for it.)
“Taking all those factors into account, I can confirm that the residual waste collection that the change we will be making is none. We are going to leave the system as it is.”
(What happened there? Bexley Council’s act of cowardice will cost all of us 1% on or Council Tax bills.)
For the record the decision was backed by the Labour Group.
It reminds me very much of the final police report following their refusal to properly investigate the obscenities posted on line from Councillor Craske’s IP address in 2011.
It went on for page after page listing all the things that Bexley police did wrong. Delays, failure to look at the evidence, deliberate misinformation to the victims etc. but the final paragraph switched tack and said no police officer had done anything wrong.
The investigating officer had quite clearly been got at for political reasons. History has repeated itself. I was under the impression that it was the Labour Party that was inclined to turn its back on financial rectitude. It would appear that Bexley Tories have caught the same disease as their national counterparts. Is there any point to them any more?