Last night the Labour administration had the opportunity to get on the front foot and apologise to a full council meeting for the unfolding waste and re-cycling disaster that is sweeping across the borough. They chose not to take it and instead stuck their collective head firmly in the sand.
Ealingâ€™s waste system moves from the south east to the north west over the course of the working week. For it to fall over so badly across Southfield, Ealing Common, Acton, Northfield and Hanwell on Monday bodes ill for the rest of the week. Problems are likely to multiply through the week and then be redoubled again by the Easter bank holiday.
It seems that the new contractor has hired the wrong vehicles to get the contract underway and is asking crews to take on beats that are much larger than the old ones. Many of the Boroughâ€™s roads are very narrow and the previous contractor had learned through hard experience that smaller vehicles were required to service some of our roads. To cope with the emergency the new contractor is grabbing peopleâ€™s carefully sorted recycling and mixing it in the back of a range of vehicles. The council claim that this mixed waste will go to a Materials Recycling Facility (or â€œMurfâ€) for recycling but in doing so much of the value of the waste stream will be lost and more will go to landfill than would otherwise have been the case.
The great improvement in recycling rates in this borough have been achieved by the hard work of its residents. Seeing their hard work taken for granted will cause people to think twice about their role in the system. Labour had other things to talk about at the full council meeting last night so failed to take the opportunity to apologise. Today the leader of the council, Labourâ€™s Cllr Julian Bell, wants to talk about Olympic loveliness in his Gazette column.
The council bureaucracy has issued an apology by making a statement on its website. The portfolio holder, who is ultimately responsible, Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, showed cowardice under fire and pushed his executive director, into the line of fire to take the bullet:
Keith Townsend, executive director of environment and customer services, said: â€œI would like to apologise to anyone whose collection has been missed. We are doing our utmost to ensure refuse and recycling collections continue to run smoothly but we would ask for residentsâ€™ patience as the new contractor takes over.â€
I wonder how long that press release will stay on the councilâ€™s website?