WALTER CRONXITE reports from the council chamber on the first giveaways of the 2018 election campaign
Stuart Collins, the deputy leader of Croydon’s Labour-run council, put an early present under every household’s Christmas tree in the borough last night.
Collins announced the latest small step towards restoring council services to pre-austerity levels when he revealed at a Town Hall meeting that there would be free collection of discarded Christmas trees next month.
The kerbside collection being provided even avoids the need for residents to haul their tired and dying trees to collection points for chipping. “That way, you won’t need to make a mess of your cars,” Collins told the meeting.
The service will be operational from January 8, for two weeks, though Collins, in a combative mood as he took a series of questions on fly-tipping, made it clear that by providing such a service, it meant that there would be no excuses for residents or local businesses who dumped their discarded Christmas decorations outside the parameters of the offer.
The Christmas tree collection service reflects a renewed pragmatism and common sense from the council – if they don’t collect the old Christmas trees, they might be faced with the costs of trucks driving around the borough picking up dumped trees in any case – plus a renegotiated and what Collins called a “tougher contract” with Veolia.
The previous contract with Veolia, negotiated under Tory bruiser Phil Thomas, took about £1million-worth of services out of the agreement over a four-year period. But while it appeared to reduce the council’s costs, the deal proved to be pennywise and pound foolish, as the state of the borough’s streets got worse and the costs of clearing up fly-tips started to soar.
Buoyed by recent figures which suggest a reduction in the number of fly-tips happening around the borough, Collins said, “I’m really confident that the new contract will see services improve. We are getting there. Lots has been done, but there’s lots still to do.”
Collins – the cabinet member for clean, green Croydon – is extending the time-banding collections service, where businesses in district centres are only allowed to leave their rubbish out at specified times, and there is to be a reintroduction of afternoon and Saturday emptying of the borough’s street bins – a measure which should help to improve the look of the high streets, particularly over weekends, by reducing the number of bins overspilling with litter.
Croydon’s Tories appear to have decided to try to make fly-tipping an election issue again in the run up to the May 2018 polls, but the council’s recent successes saw Collins reject the implicit criticisms and saw him challenge one questioner, a Conservative candidate in Norbury, to provide some fresh ideas to tackle the nationwide problems.
“Council don’t put those fly-tip there. People do,” Collins said.
“But what a vast majority of residents in Norbury do is they actually report the fly-tippers.
“We are actually doing something about it. They know this council is on their side,” Collins said.
One of Collins’s Labour colleagues, Waddon councillor Robert Canning, told the meeting that Tories in his ward had been saying that residents had complained that their local street champions were ineffective – to the apparent dismay of the street champions, residents who volunteer to monitor and help keep their neighbourhood clean. A little investigation by Canning had shown that there had, in fact, been no resident complaints, suggesting that the Tories’ “complaints” had all been fabricated.
“No one believes the lies you’re telling on the doorstep,” Collins told one Tory questioner.
“It’s no good going telling residents everywhere is crap to live in, because that’s not the truth.”
Collins is expected to reveal more details of the council’s new contract with Veolia, and the Christmas tree collection service, at next Monday’s cabinet meeting.
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