Our Sutton reporter BELLE MONT on how the council has confirmed our report about the ailing LibDem councillor, and how the council leader’s efforts to mislead over its rubbish service have been exposed
Sutton’s Liberal Democrats have organised a council by-election for March 28 – the day before Britain exits the European Union.
The by-election date has been arranged in the hope that Brexit will somehow distract residents in Wallington North ward from the Council Tax hike in April of 5.8 per cent (including the Mayor of London’s precept), the growing row over charges for street parking, and the imminent full operation of the nearby Beddington incinerator.
Inside Sutton this week revealed exclusively the impending by-election, which has been brought about by the long-term indisposition of LibDem councillor Joyce Melican, who has been absent from all council meetings for more than six months, following a stroke.
Council officials distributed formal notification of Melican’s resignation yesterday, although not before Sutton LibDem leader Ruth Dombey and her top team had spent the previous weeks plotting their by-election strategy.
This will doubtless include one of their orange-tinged In Focus leaflets for immediate delivery in Wallington this weekend, and probably also involve deciding which of their councillors who lost their seats at last May’s local elections – such as Mary Burstow, Wendy Mathys, or Simon Wales – can be given a leg-up back on to the council allowances gravy train, as their candidate in what is regarded as a safe Liberal Democrat ward.
But however much resource the FibDems throw at Wallington North in the coming six weeks, they won’t any longer be able to claim the “99 per cent satisfaction rate” with the bin collection service which Dombey said was the case when she was interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London.
Because figures obtained by the BBC show that Sutton had the highest number of complaints over missed bin collections by rubbish contractor Veolia than anywhere else in London.
Veolia took on the waste disposal and street cleaning services work from Sutton’s previous in-house team in 2017.
#SuttonBinShame soon followed.
The BBC’s research shows a staggering 26,594 missed bin or waste collections were reported to Sutton Council in 2017, more than the previous three years combined.
The number of complaints fell last year, though was still a significantly high 21,876.
That works out at 270 complaints per 1,000 households, making Sutton the sixth worst in the whole of England and Wales, and the worst local authority in London for missed bin collections. So much for Dombey’s 99 per cent satisfaction claim.
Missed bin collections prompted 1.8million complaints to UK local authorities in 2018, the BBC reports. The BBC got its stats from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which also showed that council spends on waste services has decreased from £1billion in pre-austerity 2010 to £888million in the year to March 2018, a spending drop of 17 per cent when allowing for inflation.
At least, in Sutton, the FibDems are no longer denying that there’s a problem. Well, almost.
Manuel Abellan, the chair of Sutton’s environment and neighbourhood committee, said, “In the first year of the service we did experience disruption and an increased number of missed collections.”
And then Abellan added: “We now have a stable service that continues to improve.”
“Our bin service was shit, but it is a little less shit now” will be an interesting campaign slogan for the FibDems to take to the doorsteps of Wallington North in the run-up to next month’s by-election.
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