When the news first emerged that Cory Environmental had lost the contract for Southend Borough Council’s waste collection service, I thought it odd that the local Conservatives decided to position it as the lynch-pin of their opposition campaign.
For one thing, they are the party of privatisation. I wouldn’t describe myself as a completely implacable opponent of private sector involvement in public services but…well, let’s say I’m sceptical.
This, though, is surely the model of how it should work? A contract comes up for renewal, and all comers are invited to bid. They are whittled down to the best offers, and then a choice made between them.
So why were the Tories so against Cory losing the contract? And why are they now so against the £800k saving as a result of changing provider?
Partly I’m asking pointed questions here, but I am genuinely confused. The £825k has been described as a “cut” to the waste budget by Cllr James Courtenay and former councillor Tony Cox. Partly this was to call Independent
Party Group leader Ron Woodley a hypocrite — with which I have no problem — but one does wonder whether it’s partly to cover their initial recklessness.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this from James. Back when St Hilda’s school closed unexpectedly, Cllr Coutenay bizarrely took the opportunity to blame Labour’s Cllr Anne Jones for the ensuing chaos, being the portfolio holder for Children and Learning.
One problem: St Hilda’s was a private school.
I’m trying to decode what the Tories’ objection to the change of contract is. For a while it was claimed that it would result in a fortnightly service. It won’t, so now they are casting around, looking for excuses to object.
The analogy here is with broadband providers. If I am paying £40 a month for my phone, TV and broadband, and I switch providers to one charging me £20 a month, then I haven’t “slashed my telecomunications budget”, have I? I’ve saved £20 a month.
I had wondered if the Tories might want to try and claim credit for the savings — £825k is a lot of money, though dwarfed by the £11m which their party nationally have cut from Southend. Instead they have chosen to latch onto something, anything, to criticise the new administration on.
Southend Conservatives would, apparently, rather take £825,000 from local residents and their public services, than make a the saving by switching waste collection contractors.