Readers must be getting sick of me ranting on about bin bags, but as long as it’s still an issue, and as long as it’s emblematic of Wokingham Borough Council’s utter disdain for the opinions of local residents, I’m going to keep pushing it.
I’ve been saying this for a long time, but the council’s (Conservative) administration simply does not care what the people living in the borough think of what it’s doing. I get that there are probably a lot of people who would paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in response to that: “Well, he’s a Labour candidate; he would say that, wouldn’t he?“
Indeed, that has actually been said of me. But the thing is, my accusations are borne out by the council’s actions. Look at the library privatisation fiasco. The announcement of the plan was made last May, just after the elections- yet it had gone unmentioned in election literature, and there was no consultation. When residents signed a petition objecting to the move, the council quite simply didn’t care.
Now the same thing is happening with the bins. The new scheme is widely hated, people feel the council are taking them for a ride, and there has been no consulting of the electorate. Yesterday the council (by which, I should make clear, I mean local government officers- not the politicians who actually make the decisions) conducted a Q&A session where residents could submit questions about the scheme.
They didn’t handle it badly, but the answers weren’t particularly revealing. The general sense of things was “this is the scheme, deal with it”. But there was one answer which I found astounding:
Read that carefully. They “didn’t feel it necessary to consult on the services”. That basically translates as “we don’t think we need to listen to what you think”. I believe I called that a long, long time ago.
The reason that people are so angry, for the benefit of any council staff or Wokingham Tories who might be reading this, is that you have imposed a flawed and unsuitable waste scheme on them for questionable reasons without once asking their permission. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.
So here it is. I alluded above to the fact that I am the Labour candidate for the ward of Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe in the local elections on May 3rd. I am pledging here, in writing, preserved for all to see, that if elected I will oppose this scheme with all the passion that I have shown so far. I will push, as I have been calling for, for:
- An immediate suspension of the scheme.
- An inquiry into the execution problems that have thus far dogged it.
- A public consultation on the future of waste collection in the borough.
But more than that, I pledge that I will fight with the same tenacity against the aloof, rule-by-elite attitude which has taken hold. No more radical changes to services without consultation. No more ignoring or dismissing residents opinions and concern. And no more democratic failures from elected representatives.
I know that, even if elected, I won’t be able to dictate local government policy. Even if Labour take a clean sweep of all the seats up for election, it would only give us 18 seats (out of 54). But what a victory for me (or any of my fellow Labour candidates, for that matter) would do, is make the Tories stop and think. Their disdain for residents stems from a belief that they are safe. That they will suffer no electoral consequences no matter their decision.
It is only by challenging this belief, and the Tory hegemony that they enjoy in Wokingham, that residents can reassert their democratic right to be heard.