Labour councillors called an ’emergency’ council meeting this evening on the future of the bin service following an alarming rise in complaints since the council brought back the service in February. As promised the Conservatives boycotting the meeting leaving elected councillors and members of the public unable to ask questions about the service.
Cllr Dave Wilson, Leader of the Labour Group made the following statement after the meeting was deemed ‘inquorate’.
It is disgraceful that the Conservatives have decided not to attend tonight’s formal Council meeting.
Their claimed reasons for not doing so are spurious. They are a dereliction of Councillor’s civic duty to attend, and a deliberate ploy to avoid being answerable for the results of their decisions. This issue is no longer about refuse collection – although that still desperately needs to be improved – but is about Councillors’ accountability. The Tories’ contempt for the views of residents is clear: they don’t want to answer their questions, and they won’t accept on-the-record discussion.
Not only is this unacceptable, but it calls into question how they can be trusted to wield additional powers under the new Executive Cabinet system which they seem determined to impose. Put simply: if they flatly refuse to be subject to questioning under the committee system, what chance is there of them accepting any challenge under a Cabinet system which hides their decision making from public view? No-one can have any confidence at all in the assurances offered by their Leader, Cllr Fitter-Harding, on how the Tories would behave if they were given enhanced executive powers if they are prepared to go to such extreme lengths as boycotting a Council meeting.
In short, they have shown themselves to be wholly unfit to lead this Council, resorting to name calling and baseless slurs while refusing to go on the record about their performance. The residents of the District deserve better than this from their elected representatives.
The Tories have claimed that the meeting is “a waste of time and money”. Labour councillors offered to pay for the costs of the Hall hire, which the Chief Executive declined because, he said, “The meeting will have been called in accordance with the constitution, and [Labour councillors] have the right to do that.” In any case, the Tories have overseen a series of failed investments requiring borrowing of £200 million and resulting annual interest payments of £5 million, so they are hardly in a position to censure anyone about wasting public money.
They have said that the performance information we are seeking will be made available at the November Communities Committee. That will be 9 months after the launch of the Canenco service. The Tories say they want to run the Council as a business, but what business waits 9 months to assess the performance of a new subsidiary?
The Leader says the service is “going from strength to strength”. Leaving aside that he has no evidence for this, what evidence there is contradicts his claim. Since the beginning of February (when the service began):
- The Chief Executive has provided 21 weekly updates to Councillor about Canenco. 11 of those have been predominantly about problems and delays with refuse collection
- The Council has made 14 posts on Facebook, 9 of which have concerned delays and service failures
- The Council Leader accepted at the July 15th Council meeting that there were sufficient performance concerns to require the establishment of a Councillor Working Group to oversee service improvements – something he has since failed to make happen
- He also promised at that meeting that performance data would be made available “in the autumn – another promise which looks set to be broken
- The Council Leader has personally intervened to try to intercept resident’s complaints
- In the Gazette of 29th July, he responded to multiple complaints from residents and Councillors by saying that there had been teething problems but “we will do better”
- In the edition of 9th September, he said “there are still some issues, and some of the recurring ones have proved difficult to remedy”.
There is therefore ample evidence to justify Labour’s concerns and none whatever to support the claim that the service is doing well.