A leading official in Sutton Labour has called on his party colleagues in Croydon and Merton to establish urgently a scrutiny body to keep the South London Waste Partnership in check, in order to better monitor the emissions from the Beddington Lane incinerator.
The SLWP is the body which Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston councils as its members, and which set up the £1billion deal with Viridor to have a waste incinerator operating at Beddington Lane for 25 years, and which also oversees the work of rubbish contractors Veolia across south London.
The SLWP is run by an “executive board”, made up of two representatives of the majority political group at each of the four councils which are members. There are no seats on the SLWP board for elected councillors from the minority parties in those boroughs.
Thus, when John Drage, the Sutton LibDem who sat on the SLWP, was pushing through the Viridor incinerator deal, there was no effective scrutiny of the decision, nor of Drage’s close personal relationship with Colin Drummond, the chairman of Viridor.
It was only last month, following recommendations from Stuart Collins, the Labour councillor from Croydon who is the borough’s cabinet member for fly tips and unswept streets, that a regular review of the performance of Veolia was agreed to be added to the agenda of future SLWP board meetings.
According to Charlie Mansell, pictured left, a former Labour councillor in Sutton, the time is long overdue for the SLWP to provide greater accountability from its contractors.
“One of problems is the SLWP board is an executive board and not a scrutiny body,” Mansell said.
“The four councils should set up a joint scrutiny committee to meet at least twice a year to review activity, and the incinerator’s emissions.
“The council’s cabinet member reps on the board are not scrutineers, but the commissioners.”
Mansell wants Collins and his counterpart in Merton to take the initiative and push for a SLWP scrutiny body.
“It would be great if Croydon Council wrote to the other three councils and requested the setting up of a joint scrutiny body, recognising SLWP board members are constrained by their contractual role from publicly scrutinising the contract.”
Mansell’s suggestion has the broad support of Tory and independent councillors in Sutton, as well as residents’ groups in Merton who have been dismayed by the fall in standards in the street cleaning and refuse collection services in their borough since Veolia was handed the contract through the SLWP. It has prompted them to dub their borough “Mucky Merton”.
At present, emissions data from the incinerator is the responsibility of… Viridor themselves. So far, the operator has failed to, or refused to, publish any emissions data since the plant has been conducting trial burns over the past three months. Environmentalists, concerned about the potential pollution caused by incineration, have been highly critical of this self-monitoring arrangement.
“My suggestion would make the whole process more transparent,” Mansell said.
“By doing it twice a year there will be enough comparative data on waste going in to the incinerator and emissions data, and the meeting could be held in public and the contractor and board held to account.”
Over to you, “Clean Streets Stu”…
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