Thursday, 4 August 2011

Ann John Steps Into 'Difficult' Negotiations with Veolia

Ann John, the Labour leader of Brent Council, is to meet with Veolia the controversial French multi-national, in an effort to resolve difficult and protracted negotiations over changes to its waste management contract.  Cllr Powney told last night's scrutiny committee that the talks had been 'complex', 'difficult' and 'complicated' and said that this was the reason Ann John was meeting with the company. Michael Read (Assistant Director, Policy and Regulation, Environment and Neighbourhood Services) quickly stepped in to say that such action was in line with previous practice. £1m was  due to be taken out of the Veolia contract. Powney said that the more time spent in negotiations the bigger the financial problem due to the delay. He was clearly vexed with Veolia who seem to have the Council over a barrel. The seven year waste contract ends in 2014 and the procurement process for the new contract will start soon. Clearly Veolia is trying to get as much out of its current contract as possible.

The protracted negotiations and Veolia's efforts to improve its profit margins, has led to further cuts in street cleaning in the borough. Outlying residential streets are to be swept only once a week from October, reduced from three times a week under the previous administration,  and weekend sweeping will stop at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. The special seasonal leaf collection will end and leaves will now be swept up once a week along with litter. It was far from clear from officers' comments whether the sweepers will be able to cope with this along with the extra litter caused by the reduction, whethjer the leaves will be kept separate from litter, and if so whether they will be bagged for composting as they are at the moment. In response to Powney's claim that the tonnage of leaves was small and an officer's suggestion that it was a 'symbolic' service, Cllr Paul Lorber(Lib Dem)  said that nonetheless it was an important part of the Council's green agenda.

There was cross-party agreement on the health and safety danger of wet and rotting leaves underfoot and Cllr Shafique Choudhary (Labour) pointed out the particular dangers on the steep streets of the Barn Hill area. Paul Lorber asked about the legal risks of the cuts. Cllr Kabir said, "A lot of us are uncomfortable, particularly as it relates to our climate change strategy, but I am pleased that the Council is avoiding redundancies." (In fact although no Brent staff will be made redundant up to 50 Veolia staff will lose their jobs.)

Several councillors, including the chair of the committee Javaid Ashraf (Lib Dem) said that ward councillors would bear the brunt of residents' anger when they realised that their streets were not being swept as often and that their condition had deteriorated .Lorber said that the Executive should have consulted with ward councillors who were expert on their own local areas before these 'high profile and highly visible' changes were introduced. Cllr Powney suggested that the proposed councillor briefing on waste management should be extended to street cleansing. All the changes are due to take effect from October 3rd 2011.

The motion asking the Executive to reconsider the cuts was lost. The press and public (that meant me as I was the only one there) were excluded from a confidential 'below the line' item on this topic which may well have revealed more about the financial risk the Council is running in this area.

As if on cue Veolia has announced today that it is restructuring and reducing its involvement in many countries.
LINK following a half year loss of 67.2mln Euros against a previous profit of 374mln Euros. The shares fell 12.5% on the news.


Anonymous said...

Maybe if the council had kept this service in house instead of outsourcing everything then it wouldn't be over a barrell.
I'm sure privatisation works well in some areas but right now I'm struggling to think of one area where the customer has got a better service.
Even areas where there is competiotion seem to have led to what is effectively cartels and bewildering arrays on tariffs.

Martin Francis said...

Received from Kilburn Boycott Workfare:

In the 1980`s in New York, the City made thousands of public service workers redundant, replacing them with claimants or the newly introduced work programme or Workfare. Claimants being forced to work for their benefit money. 1st June 2011. The oxymoronic "mandatory voluntary work programme" was introduced to England, where claimants will be bullied,sanctioned and coerced into working up to 30 hours for their benefit money, which works out at under 2 pound per hour while still having to prove that they are still actively seeking work. Our cynical heads are concerned that Brent council, unethical Veolia and poverty pimps, private profit making companies Ingeus UK, Maximus UK and (G) Reed employment who have taken the contracts at millions of pounds of taxpayers money to implement this will replace redundant public service workers with claimants forced on to Workfare. This will inevitably lead to wages being forced down and encourage a climate of cheap forced labour. Please visit and sign the pledge to boycott workfare.