Propping up failing rubbish collection service just stinks
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?