Politicians With Their Heads In The Sand!

My Friday blog post about Labour’s Cabinet paper on wheelie bins which stated  that they would “explore whether a partner could deliver the service from 2014 onwards and implement the roll-out of the new services” caused some excitement. It was picked up by the Chamberlain Files website yesterday, and by Adrian Goldberg’s radio show this morning.

When he first spoke to me at about 8.30am, Adrian told me the Council Press Office had said that the idea Labour might privatise the refuse collection wasn’t true and basicially to go away and read the document in context. He said to me he HAD read it, and the document DID raise that prospect.

By 9.50am when I was intereviewed on his show, the Press Office had changed their tune somewhat and produced a statement talking about the need to save money etc. No spokesman from the ruling group had agreed to come on the show, Adrian explained.

In my original blog post, I wondered what the comrades (i.e. other Labour Councillors) thought about it. I wondered what the Unions thought about it, and I wondered what the workers thought about it.

Now I know the answer. Most of them did not know. I was followed on the radio by a leading Union rep who said they hadn’t known, then a dustman from Perry Barr phoned in and he hadn’t known, and the Chamberlain Files tweeted at the end of the morning that the Cabinet Member had sent a fire fighting email round to Labour Councillors this morning – so I am guessing maybe some of them didn’t know either and were demanding answers.

Of course Cllr Bore, Cllr McKay & I presume Cllr Stacey would have known, because the idea was in the bid the Labour administration submitted. (See 5.9 of today’s Cabinet report which says “The Final Bid proposed to explore further efficiency savings, knowledge and performance risk transfer by market testing waste services. A procurement process will be initiated to obtain private sector bids for the delivery of waste collection, trade waste and street cleansing services.”)

Sir Albert this afternoon, at Cabinet, talked around the next sentence in the report “The comparison of bids with a public sector comparator will demonstrate value for money.” He made it sound like they would invite bids from private contractors but then might not go with them. But Cllr McKay then let the cat out of the bag somewhat when he said that the current service was, and I quote, “underperforming”.

I hope the Union members, some of whom I believe helped to get the current Labour shower elected, will remember that phrase when they get up early on a cold winter morning to empty our bins.

A Scrutiny review last year, chaired by Conservative Cllr Robert Alden (yes, he is a relation – my son) recommended that Unions should always be involved at the very start of any discussions, and the Full Council which was at the time being run by a Conservative/Lib Den coalition, agreed to that. But it seems that now Labour are in power, the Council is not meeting with the Unions until tomorrow (that’s what the Union rep said on the radio), despite the paper having already been agreed at Cabinet today.

Because agreed it was. Sir Albert in his summing up referred to Conservative politicians who have their heads in the sand by not wanting to agree with his plans to introduce wheelie bins and invite bids to privatise the service. I presume he was referring, at least in part, to Cllr Robert Alden (who as Conservative Deputy Leader, had just carried out a thorough dissection of the paper at Cabinet Meeting) and to me – who was causing the leadership and press office some headaches this morning.

Well, I have a message for him. Politicians who insist on railroading through a policy in the face of huge opposition from residents across the city – THEY are the politicians with their heads in the sand. Not me!

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