Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Nine Weeks On, A Decision Is Finally Made

On Monday, the Echo broke the story that after 20 years Cory's will no longer be managing the Council's waste contract after being eliminated in the first round of procurement for the new waste contract to start in 2015. As the former portfolio holder for waste services it is an area which I still take a keen interest.

Since the elections in May I had noticed that around where I live in Shoebury had started to look a little shabby. Whilst standing in the queue to get my morning paper on Sunday, a woman unknown to me, remarked to the cashier that they could tell that Tony Cox is no longer their councillor as West Road was a mess. It was one of those rare occasions where I just kept quiet as I didn't need to say anything.

Before I digress further, under the stewardship of Cory during my time as the portfolio holder a plethora of awards were won for our waste services ranging from the cleanliness of our streets and beaches to our public loos. Recycling rates at 52% were an all time high. The winter gritting service ensured that Southend's roads were passable during the cold months.

I noted that the new portfolio holder Cllr Terry from the Echo article was now a convert to the need for eliminating as much waste from landfill as possible to reduce the £3 Million annual landfill costs despite opposing every measure that I took to do so including removing black sack provision and re-issuing food waste bins to every household.

I noticed that the local blogsphere has questioned the timing of the procurement of the new waste contract after Cllr Mark Flewitt has been a vocal critic at the manner of the announcement and the lack of member involvement in the decision.

To clear up the matter, when I was the portfolio holder the process was instigated as far members and the public were consulted as to what they would like to see in the new waste contract. The public consultation ended on the 10th March.

From that period until the 22nd May, I had not been told or made aware that an advertisment had gone out to companies to bid for the new waste contract or seen the final bid specification document. Therefore, I can only naturally assume that this had commenced under the new administration.

After involving members in the initial process, I had given the commitment that members would be informed of the start of the procurement and would see sight of the bid document before commencing.

I also gave the commitment that I would bring to the Waste Management Working Party the 'scoring' of the bids received before releasing the information to the press. Members would know my commitment to member involvement in waste management from the numerous sessions conducted before the joint waste agreement was signed with Essex.

Do I believe that the decision to not include Cory in the final four bidders of the procurement is the sole work of Cllr Terry? The honest answer is that I am not sure. I say this as the Waste Team headed up by Steve Crowther is one of the if not the best sets of Council Officers that I have come into contact with.

The Echo article also strongly hinted from Cllr Terry's quote that Cory did not progress due to the need to recycle more waste. I still recall Cllr Terry's stunt last year when he brought his pink sack into the Council Chamber to invite me to look at why his pink sack was rejected on collection day, although the offending items of pizza had been carefully removed. Could this run in have ultimately cost Cory the contract?

Monday, 11 August 2014

One Rule For The Rulers

A couple of weeks ago, a judge drew to conclusion a case that I have been keeping a close eye on.

For the past 18 months, the media have been pursuing the naming of two councillors who sit on Bolton Council who had failed to pay their Council Tax two years in a row.

Judge Robin Callender-Smith and two tribunal members ruled that the naming of the Labour and Conservative member would have violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to the private life right to individuals.

In his judgement, Judge Callender-Smith said that releasing the information could potentially cause unnecessary and unjustified damage and distress to the individuals.

I understand and accept the need for privacy of individuals but on this occasion I believe that this is the wrong decision. Every councillor has a duty and responsibility to set a balanced budget which also includes the Council Tax precept level for the authority that they represent.

Is it wrong to expect local law makers to face the same level of public scrutiny as an average member of the public? I mean, many council tax dodgers have been outed in the courts or by councils themselves to show that Council Tax evasion will not be accepted.

I also think that this case has also left a burning question unanswered. Do the public have the right to know about the behaviour of those who hold public office and represent them?

Councillor For Riyadh

It's been a while since my last post, but the enforced break has been due to a family holiday to Cornwall and a dose of the flu at the back end of last week.

Whilst away, I noticed this little gem of an article where a Lib Dem councillor on Fareham Borough Council believes he can effectively represent his residents whilst having a full time job in Saudi Arabia.

This did give me a wry smile as I recall the local blogsphere here in Southend on occasions getting their knickers in a twist when a councillor represents a ward which they do not live in.