Last week, at a “special” meeting of Southend Borough Council, the final decision was made on the new waste collection contract for Southend.
Because of the commercial sensitivity of the matter, it was held behind closed doors with the public excluded, but we now know that Veolia will be the new provider, delivering significant savings over a fifteen-year period.
This has, of course, been opposed at every step by the Conservatives, chiefly by Cllr Mark Flewitt. There has been more than a little scaremongering, with claims that the departure from previous provider Cory would mean a switch to fortnightly collections (It won’t -Ed), no more textile recycling collections (They will still be recyclable -Ed), rubbish piling up in the street (That one was just fanciful, to be honest -Ed), and probably even dogs and cats living together.
The line they eventually settled on was “Everyone likes Cory, so we should spend an extra £1m-ish a year to keep them,“ which shows a breathtakingly wasteful attitude to public funds. But nonetheless, throughout they have been very much against.
So when it came up for a vote, why did they not vote against it?
Just in case anyone wants to accuse me of breaking the law by knowing/sharing that little tidbit, it actually comes from the council’s own press release:
“The decision was approved unopposed at last night’s Full Council meeting (Thursday 27th March).“
It doesn’t say whether the Conservatives voted for the proposals or simply abstained, but after such vociferous opposition on this issue from the main party of opposition I might have expected them to, you know, oppose it?
What happened to all of Mark Flewitt’s angry and near-incomprehensible ramblings on what a disgrace it was going to be? What about leaflet after scaremongering leaflet that has gone out in Conservative livery denouncing the change in contractor as one of the harbingers of the apocalypse?
If they think they overplayed their hand, then I wholeheartedly agree, but if you’re going to have principles then you should stand by them, else what use are you to anyone?
(Unless of course it was all crass opportunism from the outset… -Ed)
Of course, Mark Flewitt wasn’t actually at the meeting. Clearly despite making it the main plank of his political campaign for the last nine months, he didn’t feel the need to actually show up to the vote. Indeed, if rumour is to be believed, he was instead holidaying in the USA…
Personally, I think the new contract has the potential to be a great improvement on an already very good service. That’s not unqualified support — if I notice a drop in the quality then I will be calling Veolia to account. But if we can make such big savings, at a time when the Conservative-led government has slashed Southend’s funding by more than £11m, and still improve the service, the council would have failed residents not to try.
In the end, I’m disappointed but not surprised by Southend Tories’ flip-flopping. Voters have to ask what the point of a party who say one thing in public, but act differently once the cameras are turned off. They, and Mark Flewitt in particular, remind me of one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes
“…a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.“