Our Sutton correspondent, BELLE MONT, reports on claims from Labour activists in St Helier that street-cleaning staff, transferred from the council to Veolia last year, are having their reports of fly-tipping ignored and refused permission to take holidays
Labour activists in St Helier are claiming to have been approached by a member of the street-cleaning staff outsourced to Veolia last year, who describes an operator close to breaking point, unable to cope with the volume of work.
Daniel O’Connell, writing for Sutton Labour’s website, declined to identify the staff member – “To protect him from repercussions from his employer” – but he writes, “What he told us was deeply shocking.
“He advised us that he has worked on our borough’s waste collection service for two decades and had never witnessed a complete failure this drastic in all his time serving our community.”
Sutton’s bin collections, recycling and street cleaning services were all run in-house by the council until last year, when as part of an arrangement across four boroughs, including Croydon, brokered through the South London Waste Partnership, the services were outsourced to Veolia.
As part of the latest round of SLWP negotiations, Croydon Council, which is currently Labour-controlled, is locked into an agreement with Veolia until 2024 – unless the outsourcing firm does a Carillion in the meantime.
As Inside Croydon reported at the weekend, the Liberal Democrats who control Sutton Council, understandably concerned at the breakdown in service performance since Veolia came on board, have been pressuring the company to provide improved collections and cleaning … in LibDem-voting areas. The local elections are on May 3.
According to O’Connell, the staff member said, “Since Veolia have taken over, we cannot do the job any more.
“I keep reporting to management that bins are not being collected and there is extreme increases in fly-tipping that I can’t fix alone, but all they tell me is that we do not have enough staff and we are too overstretched to respond.”
Sutton Council is penalising Veolia by 10 per cent of its monthly fee – the feeble maximum penalty allowed – for sub-standard service, though the LibDem council leader, Ruth Dombey, has claimed on BBC radio that there is a 99 per cent satisfaction rate among residents.
“They both can’t be true,” one Sutton resident said this week.
In his report, O’Connell writes, “The Veolia staff member went on to discuss how this should be resolved and ultimately told us, ‘Cancel the contract, bring it back in-house, make us council staff again. It worked when we were’.”
It was also claimed that such is the shortage of available staff for the work required in Sutton that holiday requests are being denied or, as O’Connell puts it, “made plain awkward for staff to be able to get a day off”.
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