Councillor Gary Parker has emailed me about my last blog entry.
I'm very grateful that he's done this and I will be replying in full. For the moment though and in the interest of giving the Council a right of reply here is what he said to me:
I have just read your blog dated 18/12/08 regarding rubbish collection, many of the points including the statistics are either misinformed or just plain wrong, rather than rebut them point by point, I would like to point out a few facts that are not in your blog
1) The new recycling & collection system is both environmentally friendly- thanks to our recycling centre in Thamesmead (the MRF) we now recycle up to 40% of waste materials, this results in less landfill, significantly less journeys to landfill sites, less lorry journeys and has less environmental impact and pollution.
2) It also saves the council tax payer and the council money
3) We are now one of the highest recycling local authorities in the UK and the MRF centre is state of the art and the envy of many other local authorities- try quoting another local authority in the surrounding areas who can match this or provide a similar service.
4) The council is trying to educate people on recycling and associated issues, if we start taking other action against people without trying to educate them first, no doubt we will be accused of acting like ‘big brother’ ‘nanny state’ etc. If you read the rest of Cllr Sidhu’s letter and enclosures you will see information regarding the recycling programme and associated issues, this is something you did not bother to quote in your blog
5) Some local authorities give their residents up to 6 boxes or bins to recycle various materials, so I think your point on the numbers of bins etc, without comparison is not well made.
6) I think it is the height of cynicism to suggest we would rather cut children’s services to pay for more bins- you do not understand the budgeting process ( some grants from central govt are ‘ring fenced’ and in many cases we have a legal obligation to provide certain services, so we cannot just switch funding from one area to another, as you seem to suggest in this case, even if we wanted to- which we don’t) and that report is very inaccurate, we are not going to cut ‘front line’ children’s services , as you will see in due course, once the new proposals are in the public domain.
7) Greenwich Council provides very good value for money and over the last few years the Greenwich element of the council tax has either been frozen or had a low increase, far less than surrounding authorities such as Bexley or Bromley. I am hopeful this will continue as Greenwich as a local authority is often commended for its financial stability and management- (if you noticed it recently, we were not on the list of authorities which invested in Icelandic banks and had subsequent problems, due to our good financial management & policy), this also helps us provide extra services and invest in new ones, like the MRF, as circumstances change.
8) Today I and my co-councillor Janet Gilman have been on a two hour walkabout with members of the Central Charlton Residents Association in the area to identify problems and issues and are working constructively with them to take action, identify solutions and to develop new ways of working with them and other community groups to improve the local environment. This is the way forward in my view and as a local councillor I will continue to work with such groups to tackle these issues which are often complex in nature and not so simple to address as some people might suggest.
Cllr Gary Parker Charlton Ward
Edited to add my response:
Thank you very much for getting in touch with me and responding to my blog post.
To begin with I'd like to clarify that I believe in the new rubbish collection scheme and support the Council's aim to increase recycling and decrease landfill.
In brief I'd like to say that I believe the best way to do that is to tackle the problems caused by the new scheme and not just to send out extra rubbish lorries, with the associated extra cost of emissions and money.
Going in to more detail you say that the Council is trying to educate people on recycling issues. It appears to be the same households that have continual problems with the new scheme week after week after week. Therefore how can residents conclude that a years worth of education has been a success? Yes we've had leaflets, yes Councillor Sidhu's letter did once again give the details of the new scheme and yes occasional articles in Greenwich Time have done the same. However it's not working is it?
Can you understand the frustration and confusion that residents feel when instead of actually solving the problem the Council send an extra 1.5 bin lorries a week down our street? If this were the early days of the scheme perhaps that would be an understandable short term remedy. However when the scheme is a year old how can it be anything other than an admission of failure?
Furthermore in these times when so many of us are having to tighten our belts it smarts somewhat when we see those extra collections being done by lorries seemingly hired from an external company.
Can you reveal how much these extra collections are costing us?
My statements about the number of bins we will have wasn't really about the quantity itself, instead I was trying to ask how, when people are unable to deal with a two bin scheme, it is believed that having three bins will improve things?
Greenwich Time, Council leaflets and your email tells us residents that we get value for money, that we're helping the environment and that generally everything's going great. However when we've spent a year walking down our streets stepping around ripped open black sacks and green bins overflowing with mouldering bags of rubbish that just doesn't ring true.