WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on the widening splits within the leadership of the Labour group on the council, with local elections less than four months away
One of Croydon council leader Tony Newman’s most trusted lieutenants has this week launched a barely disguised attack on the record of one of his senior Labour colleagues at the Town Hall.
Things in New Addington must be getting a little fraught, with local elections due to be held on May 3, as Simon Hall, the councillor for Fieldway ward and Labour’s cabinet member for finance has criticised street cleaning contractors Veolia “for totally unacceptable performance” in his ward.
Such public criticism of a council contractor is rarely allowed under the iron-like grip of Tony “Soprano” Newman, and Katharine Street observers have interpreted Hall’s outburst on social media as being a deliberate attempt to undermine the position of Stuart Collins.
Collins is one of Newman’s two deputy leaders, and the cabinet member who since 2014 has been heading up the Labour administration’s high(ish) profile campaign against fly-tipping and littering. Until now, the Labour group’s party line has been a unified message that the policy is working, that offenders – even if they drop as little as a cigarette butt on the high street – are being prosecuted, and contractors Veolia are now operating to far tighter controls.
Though evidently, not on the Fieldway estate or in New Addington, where fly-tipped rubbish has been allowed to fester for weeks – right under a sign warning that fly-tippers face prosecution…
“For one of Stuart’s cabinet colleagues to go public now with overt criticism of Veolia’s performance is a transparent attack on Collins’s own performance,” a senior Labour councillor said, on condition of anonymity (“You know what Tony’s like,” they said).
Hall’s outburst, written on the New Addington councillors’ Facebook page he shares with Carole Bonner (who is standing down as a councillor in May), the ineffectual Louisa Woodley and the Town Hall’s “head boy” Ollie Lewis, is also an indication of quite how nervous the Labour quartet is becoming about their prospects at the election.
Under a heading of “State of the area”, Hall wrote on Monday: “Councillor Carole Bonner and I have been raising serious concerns about this for months – and I have seen it get even worse over the last few months.
“As it had reached a level not seen in a long time, I raised the issue today with the relevant directors. I followed this up by going round the Fieldway estate with two directors (the Director for Streets and the Director for Housing Needs).
“I showed them the state of the estate, going to various areas all round – and they saw for themselves the unacceptable state of the estate, both fly-tips and areas that clearly had not been properly cleaned for months.
“They arranged for the removal of the worst fly-tips either today or tomorrow.
“They will also now be taking up with Veolia their totally unacceptable performance. I will be following up with them for a clear action plan to ensure the state of the estate improves and is kept to an acceptable level.”
Some reports suggest that there have not been any street cleaning around the garages at Oakbank since August. Council officials responded to a resident’s report of fly-tipping and sighting of rats by bins overflowing with rubbish at Oakbank that a clean-up team would be out on January 5. No one turned up.
The resident, Nadia Lockett, described themselves as “disgusted”, and added: “I am disappointed in this Labour Council.
“I am a member of the Labour Party and I expect the streets where I live to be cleaned and anyone who has been fly-tipping to be prosecuted,” Lockett wrote.
After his visit with the council officials to the estate, Hall posted this update: “I showed them the state of the estate, going to various areas all round – and they saw for themselves the unacceptable state of the estate, both fly-tips and areas that clearly had not been properly cleaned for months, which I had been reporting for months.
“They arranged for the removal of the fly-tip Nadia Lockett identified (which should have gone this afternoon or will be going tomorrow morning).
“They will also now be taking up with Veolia their totally unacceptable performance. I will be following up with them for a clear action plan to ensure the state of the estate improves and is kept to an acceptable level.
He also posted: “There has been a lot of work done on street cleaning and fly-tip with over 100 prosecutions of fly-tippers including two people sent to prison and dozens of vehicles crushed. This is an ongoing battle and there is more to be done.
“Clearly we have to get the contractors working better and monitor them more closely – but we also need council and community to work in partnership to make this happen.”
Which is perhaps an odd thing to say if you’ve been a councillor for the area for 13 years, and if you’ve been in a position of power at the local authority since 2014.
Hall’s Fieldway ward is one of those to be reconfigured for the local elections, becoming New Addington North, where his co-candidate is Momentumista Felicity Flynn.
Though the whole of New Addington ought to be a Labour voting stronghold, until 2014 one of the four seats across the two wards was held by a far-right Tory activist, Tony Pearson. Pearson is standing again, in what is now called New Addington South, and the Conservatives have also selected a former UKIP candidate in New Addington North.
At the last local elections, 27.2 per cent of the votes cast in Fieldway went to UKIP, with another 8.4 per cent of voters supporting the BNP. In New Addington, 25.2 per cent voted UKIP in 2014.
“The UKIP vote is expected to evaporate this time round,” the Labour group source said.
“If those 2014 UKIP voters turn out, they’re more likely to vote Tory, and that could make things very interesting for Simon and other Labour candidates… It’s no wonder they’ve suddenly got all active about getting the bins emptied properly.”
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Looking at this fly tipping photo, I think that it is more the responsibility of Croydon Council bulk collection team rather than Viola, we have the same problem at Heathfield Gardens. But it is NOT the fault of the operatives, they mostly do the best that they can, it is management that is at fault.
I think you will find that the bulk collection team are Veolia employees.
Hall quotes that dozens of fly tippers vehicles have been crushed and over 100 prosecutions made. I assume it is not many over 100 or they would be shouting the numbers. Considering that around 80-90 percent of prosecutions have been for people dropping fag ends, I find it very hard believe that “dozens” (this word insinuates at least 36) of vehicles have been crushed. If this is the case, then those in the press office have been very remiss in publicising this in their weekly puff that comes out every Friday.
Still, never let facts get in the way of a good rant. The overall performance for the clearing of flytips by Veolia has been piss poor for years and i certainly agree that they should be made to perform with proper contract monitoring in place, rather than the current situation of Veolia monitoring their own inept performance.
If Hall wishes to provide evidence of the correct number, then his constituents as well as the wider people of Croydon may actually believe a word he says.
My sense from reading Simon Hall’s comment was that he was dealing in a generalisation.
Indeed, there have been more than 100 prosecutions for littering offences since 2014 (in the years before that, the council rarely bothered). But the context of the spate of prosecutions is that a large number of them have been Fixed Penalty Notices issued by wardens patrolling the high street and handing out on-the-spot fines from dropping a crisp packet or cigarette butt.
The use of these stats has been abused to give an impression that fly-tipping is in some way being better managed, when the reality is that too many of the public don’t give a flying fart about dumping their rubbish and making it someone else’s problem.
There have been successes and some progress, and some of the fly-by-nights who have been profiting from fly-tipping have indeed had their vehicles crushed. But without checking the latest stats, that number is less than 12. Or what we used to call one dozen.
The biggest success would be to bring bin collections and road sweeping back in-house, but this current council has now entered Croydon into the latest, economies-of-scale deal with the South London Waste Partnership which ties us in to Veolia cleaning our streets for years to come.
Let’s hope that they are no longer allowed to monitor their own work, as the previous administration allowed them to do.