The blog of Southend Tory councillor Mark Flewitt (St Laurence ward) is something of a dark fascination. Like a pile-up on the other side of the motorway, you know it’s going to be a grisly grammatical mess but you can’t help but peek a glance.
The latest instalment of the Flewitt Saga sees the good councillor taking umbrage at the tendering process for the council’s waste collection contracts. Apparently, the current contract holders, Cory Environmental, have lost out on the new contract.
Mark is obviously outraged (you can tell by the number of exclamation marks), but it’s not immediately apparent why…
Before we attempt to unpick Mark’s objections, let’s look at what has actually happened.
Cory Environmental are the current providers of waste collection services to Southend Borough Council, meaning they take care of the regular household rubbish collections (rather than waste disposal). This contract is for a set length of time, and at the end of that period of time it comes up for re-tender. So Cory put in a new bid, along with any other parties interested in providing the service. These bids are then whittled down to four or so “preferred options” through a process by council officers, before the decision is made as to who gets the council.
What has happened here is that Cory’s bid is not amongst the four preferred bids.
Now as I said, it isn’t readily apparent what has gotten Cllr Flewitt so upset. I am, as regular readers will know, not always a fan of privitisation. But here I have to say, it seems to be working as intended. If Cory’s bid failed to get through the process, it will be for good reason; namely that other potential providers made better offers; better value in some way. It will not be simply that some council officer has decided that they don’t like Cory; that is not how it works.
Waste collection accounts for £4.7m of the council’s budget for the 2014/2015. For contrast, the council spends £2.7m on street cleaning. This is at a time when central government (run by Mark’s own party) is inflicting punitive cuts, measured in the tens of millions of pounds, on Southend. Any savings which can be made in the waste collection expenditure for next year will, of course, be leapt upon.
“The Council Director and Portfolio Holder are asked a series of questions but the answers are thin and vague. Nothing addresses when the process was started and by who.”
Well, the contract will have had an expiry date written into it (Mark works for a law firm; is he really this ignorant of how contracts work?) so it won’t have been some great secret when abouts a re-tendering process would take place. Additionally, the joint administration have been in place for some nine weeks. The request for tender would have gone out long before — under the previous, er, Tory administration. Under former councillor Tony Cox, in fact (I look forward to what he has to say on the matter).
So Mark is upset that this has been handled by council officers — whose job it is to do so — under rules which would have been established before the start of the process, and that the current service providers have been beaten by better offers. Still following? Because I’m completely lost. Would he rather the council tossed taxpayer money away unnecessarily?
This feeds into a theme of opposition from the Conservatives in Southend. It seems that, having enjoyed power for so long, they still can’t believe that they would be rooted out by the electors. At the last full council meeting, Tory James Courtenay launched a bizarre attack on Anne Jones (executive member for Children & Learning) over the closure of St Hilda’s — a private school outside of the council’s remit.
“Southend ditches Cory…” Mark says, “elected members don’t know why….“. If he thought about it for a second rather than focusing on petty attacks, he might be able to figure it out. It isn’t hard. But no, he and his fellow Tories would rather jostle with each other for their own personal positions.
Mark and his colleagues might want to think on whether this sort of mentality had anything to do with resident’s near-wholesale rejection of their party at the ballot box.