Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Councillor Parker on the commuter boats, gritting and the "new" bin scheme

Edited to add: Well I emailed/blogged just a bit too early, the extra collection of contaminated bins happened over lunchtime today. This entry will however remain as it is what I said to the Councillor and it also illustrates what will happen if the Council do just stop the extra collections.

Councillor Gary Parker has responded to my last email with details that also cover a number of other blog postings.

I do just want to take a minute here to point out how good he's being over this. He's willing to enter into a conversation over several issues and I do believe that's a truly good thing. He's also quicker at emailing than I am, his response came in last night, it's only over lunch today that I've been able to reply so I'm the slow link here.

However in the end actions speak louder than words so let's see what happens. I must admit to still being a tad sceptical, after all we're still discussing the problems with the "new" bin scheme over a year after it was introduced and to be frank my street today looks pretty much as bad as it did a year ago.

it's interesting to note that I've received a response about the claims over the Council's Clipper Boats campaign but that the News Shopper seemingly didn't, then again that could be down to them being more than a bit rubbish.

Also something that I didn't say to the Councillor is in answer to his statement that all school closures were advertised on the Council Website on both days. Basically on Wednesday morning at about 9am I checked out the web site and it said nothing. Later on in the day changes were made and something was added. So was there information up there on Monday and Tuesday, that was taken down early on Wednesday morning and then added again Wednesday afternoon? Does anyone remember seeing anything on the web site Monday or Tuesday?

But anyway, here is the Councillor's email and after it comes my reply.

I think you have misinterpreted my previous email ,even though it was a very quick response. I will deal with the issues once I get clarification from officers.

Other points I would make though from your recent posts having read them
though are:

Clipper Commuter Boat service- Greenwich council has supported and provided financial support for the service as did the previous mayor Ken Livingstone. The council leadership did approach the GLA to discuss the issue as I understand it and were only offered meetings with one of the inumerable deputy mayors who subsequently cancelled several appointments. So if the Tories at City Hall find communication difficult that's down to them. They cannot say they were not aware of the issue because they are about to end their subsidy for the service- a decision presumably by the Mayor. The Mayor and the local tories can resolve this easily by confirming their position on this issue- the silence is deafening. But to claim some conspiracy by the council is completely off the mark.

Snow & Gritting & Schools-
Some of the comments on this are totally inaccurate and I would like to point out that there were staff injuries- see below, as a result of carrying out normal & additional duties after struggling to work

I attach an extract from a recent report by the chief executive


2.1. As a result of the severe weather warning for 1st and 2nd February, Greenwich Council's road gritting teams worked continuously from 7.30am Sunday morning (1st February). All priority roads were gritted on Sunday 1st February before and after the heavy snow fall and during Monday 2nd February. Vehicles have covered over 1,000 miles in that time and the Council has used 300 tonnes of grit in the 3 days (1st to 3rd February).

2.2. The road gritting operation has been prioritised using the Winter Plan. Main roads, emergency routes, town centres and keeping areas clear to operate public transport are the key priorities. It has also focussed on bus garages and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to ensure emergency vehicles can access safely. All roads of high and medium priority have been gritted and were kept open.

2.3. In addition to the gritting of roads, some 230 Cleansweep staff have been diverted to undertaking gritting and cleaning operations on pavements. The priorities are town centres, shop parades, entrances to schools, sheltered blocks and pavements on hills. This is in accord with the Winter Plan.

2.4. The need to prioritise does mean that minor and residential roads may not have been tackled. In addition to focussing staff resources on priority areas as set out in the Winter Plan, it has also been necessary to use our store of grit in a targeted way. The Council maintains a large store of grit but the volume needed has been significantly higher than normal and it is known that the level of demand nationally was high leading to a depletion of suppliers' stocks. By Thursday 5th February the Council held approximately 320 tonnes of grit and received a further delivery of 90 tonnes that day. The Council, therefore, has adequate stocks to last several days, depending on conditions.

2.5. In addition, we have sourced an additional stock of 20 tonnes of 'glass sand' (made from recycled glass) from Days Aggregates on Greenwich Peninsula. We have mixed this with salt to make it available for use on hard surfaces away from the public highway, eg schools, parks, entrances to Council services etc.

3.1. Refuse Collection
As a result of the heavy snowfall, refuse collection services were suspended for Monday 2nd February and Tuesday 3rd February. It was not safe to use refuse collection vehicles on residential and minor roads which were still icy or blocked by snow. A limited refuse service resumed on Wednesday 4th February, prioritising the collection of nappies, black sacks and Euro-bins. That day fourteen members of staff fell and injured themselves and there was one minor traffic accident.

3.2. Schools and Children's Services
a. Schools
The decision to close schools rests with the Head Teacher and the School Governors. All Schools and Children's Centres were closed on Monday. After school clubs were also cancelled on Monday.

Following the severe weather warnings which were issued by the Met Office on Monday afternoon and circulated by the Council to schools, a number of Head Teachers took the decision on Monday night to keep schools closed on Tuesday. This meant they could inform parents well in advance. Further schools took the decision to close on Tuesday morning when they discovered the schools sites were unsafe, and staff could not make it in. There was liaison between Children's Services, Press Office and the Council web team throughout Monday and Tuesday to ensure all school closures were
advertised on the Council Website on both days.

Each Head Teacher/Governing Body will determine how to deal with any staffing issues, eg use of training days.

Other Services

Sufficient staff succeeded in getting to work to ensure that all other services could operate. Libraries, leisure centres and parks were open to the public, funerals and cremations were able to proceed. The pest control service could not operate on 2nd February due to the conditions and the noise team did not operate out of hours on Monday 2nd February. Services
were operating normally from 3rd February.

And this is my reply.....

Thank you again for your very rapid response.

Regarding the Commuter Boats can I just clarify that you are saying that Greenwich Council have contacted the GLA about your campaign in particular? Or have you, as in the Council not you personally, just spoken with them about the issue in general? Furthermore you are saying in particular that at least one of the Deputy Mayors knows about this, and this if the Mayor doesn't then that's not your fault? What about TFL? Have they been spoken to or is there no need for that? I'm aware that I've given space to Councillor Drury's claims that neither the Mayor or TFL know anything about your campaign and would like to make clear what the Council's position actually is.

Thank you for the information about the gritting of roads. I do have a question about the "glass sand", what is classified as being "away from a public highway"? Is it suitable to be used on pavements?

Finally a few words more about the rubbish collection situation. This week in Floyd Road the additional bin lorry that used to empty the "contaminated" bins every week has not appeared. Now that may be because it is an extra collection and waste services are still recovering from the situation last week. However could it also be because that despite your statement that it's "too early to assess the success or failure of the new arrangements" someone within waste services has decided that it's not too early and that given how we now have our black bins they can stop the extra collections?

Well I do hope not, the attached photos illustrate the state of the road today where alongside unemptied bins it appears that residents, frustrated at finding their own bins still full, are dumping waste sacks in the street. It's another two weeks before our next scheduled black sack/bin collection so this could be quite a problem for quite a period of time if the additional collections are simply stopped with no other remedial action.

Can you confirm if the additional weekly collection of contaminated bins and the upgrading of black sack collections to weekly is to continue?

Or if it is they are to stop, which I agree that they must, that something is being done about the state of the street?

Without announcement or admission of the problems extra collections were introduced by the Council, residents have now obviously come to expect them and withdrawing them without comment will create the problems that the photos clearly show.

Waste sacks dumped by a public bin.

This is almost certainly due to the contaminated bin being unemptied, the sack could only have been there for a day or two and already it's been torn open by animals and rotting food waste is spread across the pavement.

Incorrectly filled and unemptied green and blue bins next to a seemingly empty black bin.


darryl853 said...

On the boats - it looks like we've got competing authorities playing tribal politics trying to outdo each other. If Greenwich has approached Boris and his many deputies, I suppose Boris doesn't want to hand a Labour council a publicity coup by letting them claim credit for Oysters on boats. From Greenwich's side, it's very handy for them to portray Big Bad Boris who doesn't care about boats to Woolwich. Win/win all round for London's knackered politicians' willy-waving games, the only losers are the passengers.

It's instructive that Gary Parker's response contains a level of honesty that is completely absent from any of Greenwich Council's usual communications.

On bins and streets - I can live with disruption, these things happen. But getting angsty about missing a week's collections misses the real point that Cleansweep is understaffed and underfunded, and badly run, the legacy of which you can see in the crap which litters the streets of Charlton every day. And there's a lack of transparency and honesty about the way streets are gritted - Charlton station's approaches weren't even touched, despite the old cobblers on their website about sorting out the approaches to stations. That'll never change while you have a weakly-run streets organisation run out of a central point in Thamesmead, miles from many people's homes.

Gary Parker's honesty's admirable, and rare for a councillor from the ruling party. But ultimately, while councillors from his party keep getting elected, he'll always be fighting a losing battle.

Charlton Average said...

Strangely enough I always found Cleansweep themselves to be pretty good. I had quite a lot of contact with them last year when the problems caused by the "new" bin scheme. They would generally appear and clean up the mess.

The problem here isn't so much with missing a week's collections, which can happen and given the weather is understandable.

The issue is that not having those extra collections for one week reveals the scale of the problems that those extra collections have been covering up.

Yes the new scheme appears to have been keeping the streets at a reasonable level of cleanliness, well a state of cleanliness roughly on a par with how things were before the new scheme came in.

However that's all an illusion because the council has been spending our money and it's resources on doing those extra collections.

And all because they just won't admit that there are serious problems and go and actually talk to people.