Labour accused of being ‘unwilling to consider ways to tackle’ waste collection issues in Merton

Merton’s Labour council blocked motions to sack Veolia at a specially-convened meeting last week, following problems with the borough’s street cleaning, waste and recycling services.

Wednesday’s extraordinary council meeting was called by Merton’s opposition Conservative group to discuss the service, provided by Veolia since October 2018.

The Conservative group proposed a motion to switch waste management providers at the earliest possible break, with discussion of a ‘step in’ clause and financial penalties for Veolia’s poor performance.

Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Daniel Holden, said: “For too long Merton Council has tried to ignore residents and hide the failure of its disastrous decision to put Veolia in charge of street cleaning, and waste and recycling collections.

“Local residents have had to endure months of Veolia’s failure to sort their act out.”

The Lib Dem group also put forward an amendment to review processes in waste management services immediately.

Lib Dem Councillor Paul Kohler said: “There are clear problems and we’ve heard that from many of our residents, day in, day out.”

During the full council meeting, residents asked numerous supplementary questions to the Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Cleanliness, Councillor Mike Brunt, highlighting issues such as bins left on streets, fly-tipping and poor online reporting facilities for such incidents.

Councillor Brunt said: “I meet regularly with Veolia’s management and challenge them and hold them to account.

“Sometimes these conversations are uncomfortable for Veolia as I challenge them when they let us down.

“I give positive feedback when it’s due but I do not shy away from insisting on improvement.”

He said that the situation is improving and that the council are taking on three more street monitoring officers, in addition to the three client management officers and the two extra already taken on, and that ward workshops are underway to discuss issues.

During the meeting, Labour councillors repeatedly pointed to the government’s cuts to local councils and accused the Conservatives of using the meeting as a hustings for their next group leader.

Merton residents continue to report problems with waste collection on social media using #muckymerton with photos of uncollected Christmas trees and piles of uncollected rubbish last week.

Labour’s motion passed and opposition motions were defeated by 33 Labour councillors to 23 Conservative and Lib Dem with three abstentions from independent councillors.

Speaking after the meeting, Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Anthony Fairclough, said: “We need to look and learn what works – Merton must get better at being a Council that commissions services, rather than one that provides services directly.

“But it’s frankly extraordinary that Labour councillors are unwilling to consider new ways of tackling the problem.”

Veolia did not respond to a request for comment.

Feature image credit: Mark Gale on Twitter.

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