Prop­ping up fail­ing rub­bish col­lec­tion ser­vice just stinks

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion -

In the last fort­night I’ve had a lot of e-mails about rub­bish. Lit­er­ally about rub­bish. It seems that Serco has missed de­liv­er­ies all over the lo­cal area, leav­ing Christ­mas trees wilt­ing on pave­ments and refuse be­ing blown down our streets in the icy Jan­uary winds. It now turns out that Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil wants to prop up the fail­ing rub­bish col­lec­tion ser­vice by giv­ing Serco ex­tra cash – hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds of tax­pay­ers’ money each year. Serco is a pri­vate firm. That’s right, pri­vate. It bid for this con­tract and clearly didn’t do the sums right. Now the lo­cal Tories are putting good money after bad. It’s not Natwest, or Car­il­lion, but this rub­bish deal re­ally stinks. My friends, our group of four Labour coun­cil­lors on Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil, are tak­ing a stand against this. They agree with me that it just isn’t right. Serco, as a com­pany, has a trad­ing profit of £35m. It could choose to make less profit and de­liver bet­ter ser­vices. So, no, I just don’t agree with lo­cal Con­ser­va­tives, such as the Tanker­ton rep­re­sen­ta­tive Neil Baker, when he calls this ex­tra lo­cal money handed out to Serco an “in­vest­ment”. Sorry Neil, you are com­pletely wrong: this is cor­po­rate fail­ure and to not ad­mon­ish it as such is ne­glect­ful and re­miss. To re­ward such fail­ure us­ing tax­pay­ers’ money is im­moral. When, in 2015, it was pointed out to Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil that there were con­cerns about Serco’s per­for­mance, the Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor for Nail­bourne, Si­mon Cook, sug­gested that peo­ple should pick up rub­bish them­selves. I’m all for green-mind­ed­ness, but not at the ex­pense of ig­nor­ing that the Serco bid was sim­ply a bad bid. So, what can we do? Well, firstly, tell your lo­cal city coun­cil­lors that you don’t want tax­pay­ers’ money prop­ping up cor­po­rate fail­ure. Serco says that “ac­cess is­sues” are be­hind some of the re­cent prob­lems. Have streets got nar­rower in the last two years? No. Did they know what they were bid­ding on? Yes. Se­condly, the coun­cil must en­sure that ev­ery­one who wants a hard copy of the col­lec­tion-sched­ule leaflet should be able to get one. I’ve heard of a few peo­ple who phone up the coun­cil and Serco ask­ing to be sent copies and are told the sched­ule is only avail­able on­line. This isn’t good enough: lots of peo­ple don’t have a home com­puter or a printer. Push­ing re­vised col­lec­tion dates out only on Twit­ter just isn’t good enough ei­ther. Fi­nally, Serco must be ac­count­able. Its web­site de­scribes Serco as a com­pany that is “reimag­in­ing pub­lic ser­vices”. Well, I don’t want imag­i­na­tion when it comes to refuse col­lec­tion: I want it to be re­li­able, I want it to be safe, I want dates to be clearly ad­ver­tised and I want an ef­fec­tive re­cy­cling strat­egy. Is this re­ally too much to ask?

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