Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Cllr Duffy calls for Special Council Meeting on waste strategy waste

Cllr Duffy (Labour, Kilburn) has sent the following email to all Brent Councillors:

Dear Councillor

Firstly I am sorry for the length of this email , but I believe it deals with important issues.

I am asking for your support to call a special Council meeting to discuss the issues concerning  the waste of resources  around fly-tipping , enforcement and bulky waste collections, together with the cabinets failure to maximise income on the green bin service  and their failure to improve our recycling levels.


To get to the issue why I am sending this email  and to put it into respective. In Nov 2015 a scrutiny task group reported into fly –tipping which was plaguing Brent ( and other boroughs) and made up more than 90% of Street Environment complaints. The Task group review was concerned with "reducing the levels of fly tipping in Brent and ensuring clean and safe environments for Brent resident’s; and as a result, a reduction in cleanup and enforcement costs".

The committee looked at 14 different types of fly-tipping , which were causing problems in Brent. Dog-ends was not among them and did not figure in any charts made known to the committee. The task group was informed of 2013/14  fly-tipping incidents and costs. There were 7001 incidents of reported fly-tipping. 

The  Lead member for the environment advocated employing Kingdom Securities  to deal with the problem of Fly-tipping. Kingdom Securities are a well known low-wage , non-union company.. The cabinet and later the Scrutiny Committee agreed (against my advice) to award the contract to Kingdom Securities without going out to tender or looking at an In-House option. You may remember the details of that contract  that the private contractor was to get £46 per Fixed penalty notice (PFN) issued ,the council would get £34 for every PFN paid  and the council would  paid all legal fees and that Kingdom securities would not search or investigate fly-tipping instead they would concentrate on Cigarette dog -ends even though they were not named as a problem. Altogether approximately 6000 were issued ( many to vulnerable people ) therefore Kingdom securities received  £246k and the leadership and Lead member used the soundbite "Zero Tolerance"  to explain the policy.

How wrong they were!

Not only did the contract promoted by the cabinet not included any VFM negotiations, it cost ratepayers more than £100k  extra when compared to an In-house option. The cabinet also allowed the private contract to  concentrate on easy targets without any residents input therefore allowing the contractor to cheery pick PFNs instead of dealing with Fly-tipping , which was (is) the main complaint of  residents.

 Since the contract was introduced The number of fly tips reported in the year to year prior to employing Kingdom Securities was 13,197 the number of fly tips reported in 2016/17 (mostly the period Kingdom Securities were employed) was 17,338 an INCREASE of just under 32%. I also believe there maybe other significant financial/ environmental implications of the failure of this contract caused by the extra fly-tip collections carried out by our collection contractor. 

Fly-tipping (on public land):


Things are even worse if you use the figures prior to this administration gaining power in May 2014 there was 7,000  reported fly-tips per year  at the end of last year there were 17,338 a staggering increase  of 147%.  

First let me say before the leader or the Lead member suggests the increase is (i)because  of the New Brent cleansing APP, or is (ii)  related to government cuts,these reasons in my experience are total nonsense .

(i)Firstly black bags or mattress dumped in a road reported by phone or email or APP does not change the fact its been dumped. There may be  a small amount duplicate but that cannot explain a 147% increase or the jump from 7001 to 17338. 

(ii) Secondly there is no doubt the government have severely cuts  local government  finance  putting many services at risk. That is the very reason there is no  excuse for wasting valuable  finance on vanity projects like the Cabinets Kingdom Securities project. However in this case the government cuts were not to blame .The government  actually gave us the powers to issue the fines and keep the entire £80  per FPN income  for the council to improve Environmental services  . It was the Lead Members decision to give away this valuable income to a private company ,without  ensuring VFM or agreed outcomes, that is the problem

The real reasons the 147% rise is policy failure by the cabinet .The private sector and officers pulled the cabinets trousers down  and Kingdom Securities  were allowed to maximise  profits for themselves while ignoring  growing number of Fly-tips dumped all over Brent. 


In May  2014 Brent was an averagly ( maybe a little above average) clean  Borough which many of us wish to improve ,but  since then we have been hindered by bad cabinet policy and  i believe we have started to fall behind .

Veolia do a reasonable / good job , however the council enforcement section are failing because they seem to have no medium or long term strategy .I have looked at these figures mentioned above  and the problems are obvious to anyone and  can be cut with relatively easy, as many are often repeat problems.However I am afraid that the Environment service lacks leadership  from the Cabinet on behalf of the residents and the officers and contractors are allow a free-hand. The Environment Service waste money and resources. Time after time I can show officers examples  of problems from 2014 which have still not been solved . The lack of strategy means we are resolving the same issues (just pick it -up) ,when their time should be spend solving the problems that create the issues.

As an example (one of many) we had successful introduction time banding at great cost on our main high streets, we had an early communication strategy that worked, signs and leaflets to inform both residents and shop - keepers, we advertise the changes in journals as per the legislation .The implementation was excellent .Unfortunately like many of Brent policy implementation we did not follow it up . We now have time banding in High Streets that say that waste should be put out till 7pm including weekends and our officers go home at 4pm and do not work weekends and very little enforcement is done during the week . Like many things in life enforcement is not rocket science, it is  basic. However policies needs to be followed up with a join strategy after implementation with our collection contractors.

This is why there is an massive  increase in Fly-tipping and a  full council meeting  is needed to be called to discussion a street enforcement strategy. In the interim the Leader, Lead member  and CEO (as they are the most culpable for  employing Kingdom Securities  and therefore these disastrous figures )  should produce a report prior to the   full council meeting setting out an enforcement strategy that is relevant and concentrate on the 99%  of fly-tipping  our residents are complaining about .I still believe there is time to turn these figures around  but we will achieve nothing if we continue to ignore the problem and waste money and resources.


In May 2014 when we were elected, residents had 3 free collections and the waiting time was 5 days. In August this year the waiting time had  gone up to  eight weeks .This eight week delay was not by chance this again is the fact the cabinet did  not re-organise the system. It was obvious the service was failing and the cabinet needed to make the service more responsive to the needs of the residents. This again had nothing to do with government cuts , it was the failure to review prices and make the service relevant  and more reliable .However the cabinet’s  recent decision to  charge £35 (1 to 5 items ) and to make it an on-line service only, is an very unusual tack with fly-tipping going through  the roof. The decision needs a comprehensive review to ensure that we are not paying the contractor twice for the same service and that the new  service is itself is  reliable and time relevant. Also the concept of 5 items  was based on the original contract , when the service was free  to limit what the contractor would collect  . I do NOT understand why the 5 item concept is still in used .If you put out one mattress  you will be charged  as if its five.Clearly there are some collections cost that are the same be it 1 or 5 items, we have no disposal costs disposal cost  as that cost is in Waste Disposal levy..Of course if you have six items it will cost you £70 , if you have rubble they will not collect it , if you have soil from your garden they  will not collect it.

The service seems to confuse itself with rules from the free collections carried into the private paid  service  we are now providing.It occurs to me more work needs to be done on  the pricing of this service.


Not only do the cabinet not understand enforcement or how to reorganise the bulky waste service, they have also shown a complete lack of understanding on how to market services,  instead of spending  money on marketing ( invest to increase income) the Green Bin Service spend very little if any on communications 15k over 5 years if I remember correctly.

From the very outset  of the service in 2014/15 the cabinet wanted to  agreed a financially wasteful contract  to ensure Veolia received all the income until I stop them ( I will never tired  telling  them that ) saving up to £400k.I  fought hard to ensure the revenue came to the ratepayer instead of the contractor as the cabinet wanted to agreed. Unfortunately the cabinet squandered that legacy. Instead of increasing the sign-up  for Green Bins to 50% ( Ealing are on 52%) the cabinet have failed to invest and the  number of residents  using the service is down from the initial 32% we had in in 2015 .We have instead lost customers every year 130 the first year and we are  643 down this year ( albeit this may come down) losing Brent £38K.

I have factored  the £10  rise  this year .If the participation rate continues to fall in 2018  and the cabinet fail to re-market the service and continue to raise prices, in a few years we will ultimately hit a brick wall as we continue to lose extra income. I am surprised  the Cabinet believe they can always put the price  of the green bins up just to cover any short fall.In any other organisation, when you are losing customers, you do not plan 2 consecutive £10 price rises if you did it would be consider risky to say the least. Most  external organisation would try to up their participation rate.I am also a little bit weary of the decision  to introduced a policy that you can only renew  or sign -up on line , therefore making it  a little more difficult for residents to register , who knows maybe that policy alone is losing potential users.

It is clear to me the dramatic rise in fly-tipping in JUNE, JULY ,AUGUST and SEPTEMBER is partly due to Garden waste being dumped, albeit in the original report it said it would not happen. If  Brent had signed -up 52% the same as Ealing instead of just 32% we would have had an extra £610K income . I am not saying we could have reached the 52% mark for various reasons. However the cabinet should have tried to improve participation instead of sitting on their ( polite observation) hands , if we had archived half of the sign-up we would  have an extra £300k. To see that extra income squandered is disgraceful and I am afraid  the cabinet are culpable for their lack of action.


In May 2014 when we were elected we were recycling 40.8% of our waste  we are now recycling 35.8% a fall of 5% .

When compared to 5 boroughs in Waste disposal Authority ,Brent are second from bottom

West Waste Figs ( Source GLA)

Hillingdon    =    44.1 %
Ealing           =    43     %
Harrow        =    40.9  %
Richmond   =    40.5  %
BRENT        =    35.8  %
Houslow     =    33.8   %

You can see that Brent's performance is below average. However the most alarming issue is during this period the council doubled the Dry Recycling collection  from once a fortnight to once a week ,with no appreciable  difference to our  dry recycling Tonnage. This again the fault of the cabinet and lead member ,who failed to understand how to promote the new service and fail to insure a communication strategy was in place.

I think there are also additional issues regarding the monitoring of Veolia's performance, the street cleansing survey are not independent, but are carried out by a joint council/contractor team and are not verified by any external audit. That maybe why the cleansing index remained the same, while fly-tipping when up by147%. I believe we need an independent survey from the Tidy Britain Group,

There other issue, that I will raise at another time.Do all areas receive the same service or do some areas receive a better cleansing services,better resourced? Why have the cabinet failed to produce a environmental schools programme.

It is clear that as you drive/walk around the Brent many of the cleansing services are good many are reasonable, but some areas are suffering from heavy Fly-tipping  so it will be good to get a full picture .My next step is to arrange  some resident meetings over the next couple of weeks/months to discuss  improvements and alternative policies to protect Brent's environment. I am asking for all party support to called for a full council meeting once the  residents have been consulted and the feed back analysed so a comprehensive  plan on the way forward can be considered at  full council sometime in November.

I also believe a full council meeting would make members of the Cabinet and CEO accountable and ensure they inform us when they knew the private sector contract to tackle fly-tipping was failing and why they took no action to stop fly-tipping rising by 147%.

Where you as a councillor can help .At the moment I have a number addresses for Residents Associations  who I will be contacting but would welcome more. So if you  as local councillors know of  Residents Associations which you believe  may wish to be included on the consultations please let me know their emails address. 

I will be writing to you again to expose other (what I see are ) areas where the service can improve. I may also be raising issue on my KilburnCalling blog which you can participate on .If you wish to contact me please use this email address johnduffymo@yahoo.co.uk title the email Environmental Strategy.

Some councillors clearly support the cabinet decisions and may believe the decision the cabinet took were correct , and may wish to be removed from my contact list. Please let me know and I will do my best to ensure you are not bothered by my emails.


Philip Grant said...

An anonymous comment on a recent blog has criticised councillors, for spending their time at a Full Council meeting debating a motion on anti-Semitism.

I welcome any clear statement, or action, against hate crime of any sort, but I agree with the person making that comment that there are very important issues for local people that the Council should also be discussing, and taking action over.

Cllr. Duffy has made some strong, and well informed, comments in this email to his fellow councillors. What the Council does about fly-tipping, recycling and other "waste" related matters IS an important issue for local people, and his email highlights matters which need to be considered and dealt with.

Although Cllr. Duffy has some opponents within the Council, the matters he has raised do need to be discussed, openly and sensibly, and I hope that his colleagues will support a special meeting of the Council to consider these issues.


Geraldine Cook said...

Cllr Duffy clearly sets out a catalogue of failure, in action and peculiar decisions, and inadequate responses. We all see what a failur waste disposal is in the Borough - the fly tipping is the most shameful thing all brought about by short term policies designed to get money in without any thought and as for only being able to sign up on-line for Green Bin renewal or to subscribe..it is just plain stupid isn't it? Do they not know how many people are just not on line?! If not, they should.