Blimey, I’ve never known so much fuss over a waste collection contract.
(And, for anyone who has been following my blog from the early days, and who remembers that one of my first forays into local politics was over changes to the, err, waste collection contract in Wokingham — yes, I appreciate the irony)
When Mark Flewitt made an opportunistic attack on the failure of current waste collection providers Cory Environmental to make the shortlist for the new procurement contract, it was pretty much par for the course, right down to the mangled metaphors. But, it turns out, that he isn’t the only one.
Firstly, let’s deal with Flewitt. His latest blog on the subject went as follows [sic]:
“After a councillor briefing about a frontline weekly service to all our homes, here is what i can tell you about the future of the waste service……..
“That’s right, absolutely nothing.
“Until the process has finished we have a legal gag.“
Now, Mark is right in as much as this issue is covered under commercial confidentiality, and he is almost certainly not allowed to divulge those confidential details. And that is the standard for such procurement processes, including those which would have taken place when the Conservatives were running Southend and Mark sat in the cabinet. I really don’t see that this is some dark conspiracy by the new administration.
Because — if Mark was the only person getting upset about Cory not being shortlisted, then I might not have even bothered with this blog at all. But he isn’t the only one. Tony Cox has also spoken about the issue on his blog. From a recent example, I quote:
“…the new Independent Party led coalitions first real decision was to axe Cory, the town’s refuse collector…“
Now, I’m not sure what the basis is on which we are classifying “real decisions”. But even putting that aside, I’m not sure it can actually be classified as the joint administration’s decision. See, the short listing is done by local government officers adhering to a set process and legal requirements. The actual process was set before the change in administration, by the previous executive councillor for Public Protection, Transport & Waste. One, err, Tony Cox.
Tony has also said:
“I also gave the commitment that I would bring to the Waste Management Working Party the ‘scoring’ of the bids received [for the contract, prior to short-listing] before releasing the information to the press.“
I’m not saying that Tony did not make such a promise — merely that I and others have yet to discover precisely to whom he made it.
But whilst Tony’s second guessing of a decision which is in large part his own is bizarre, Westborough councillor Dr Velmurugan wins the prize for most hysterical intervention. In a letter to the Leigh Times, Vel said:
“…I feel ashamed to be part of an administration which has allowed this to happen.“
He went on to say:
“I’m very annoyed, to such an extent that I will now consider my position as far as the joint administration is concerned.“
Never mind that nobody is ever quite sure what Vel’s position is, this is a bit much. You might not agree with the decision, but ashamed? Between them, Flewitt, Cox and Vel can be the founding members of the Southend Political Amateur Dramatics Troupe.
People are concerned about the waste collection contract; they are justifiably worried that the quality of service may decline as a result. I cannot say whether that will or will not be the case, but I do know that as a result of the Tory-led government slashing local government budgets — supported by Southend’s two MPs; both James Duddridge and David Amess voted very strongly for reducing local government spending power — Southend needs to save money. The best possible value needs to be extracted from every contract.
If you want to know who is responsible, then look to who controls the purse strings.