At the Cabinet on Monday, Labour speakers tried to assure everyone that the fact they were embarking on a procurement process to obtain private sector bids for the delivery of the refuse collection service, didn’t mean they actually WERE going to privatise it, only that they were carrying out some “market testing” to comply with the conditions of the bid.
But as my quote of the relevant paragraph (Point 5.9 of the Cabinet Report) on this blog last week clearly showed, the report says, “A procurement process will be initiated to obtain private sector bids for the delivery of waste collection, trade waste and STREET CLEANSING SERVICES.” (my capitals).
If the market testing is just about satisfying the Government over the wheelie bin bid, as some Labour Councillors claimed, then why is street cleansing included? Or trade waste for that matter? They’re not part of the bid!
Meanwhile the Birmingham Post yesterday reports that the Unions (at their meeting on Tuesday) were only given an assurance that the Labour led Council isn’t looking at privatisation “at the moment”.
But we all know they’re not looking at it at the moment, so that’s not an assurance at all in my book. Nevertheless no-one can deny that Birmingham’s Labour Cabinet clearly agreed on Monday to “authorise the Strategic Director of Local Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Members for Green, Safe, Smart City, Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement to undertake a Market Testing of the Services to establish if a partner could deliver the service from 2014 onwards”. (Point 2.5 of the Cabinet Report).
My understanding was always that our refuse service would undertake the 2013 pilot in two wards, and a private partner (if one is chosen) would then carry out the full roll out of the remaining 38 wards in 2014.
The proposed introduction of wheelie bins across the city is hugely unpopular with many residents – I’ve been contacted by lots of people who are concerned about it, including some who live in Cllr McKay’s Harborne Ward, and frankly I’d be very surprised if rank and file Labour Councillors haven’t been receiving emails and phone calls about this too. Conservative Councillors Robert Alden and Timothy Huxtable have therefore wisely called the decision in – forcing the Executive to take another look. Let’s hope next time the Labour Executive will see sense.