Former Croydon Council leader Val Shawcross has called for Veolia to be sacked because of its rubbish service, as KEN LEE reports
“What chance do ordinary residents have of getting the sort of service that they pay for if even a former council leader and, until last year, a deputy mayor of London can be ignored by Croydon’s rubbish contractors?”
That was the question posed by a serving Labour councillor after they had seen Valerie Shawcross, for 16 years a London Assembly Member, make a plaintive appeal via social media to get her green waste emptied after it was missed for three collections running.
“If Kafka did a waste service, this would be it,” Shawcross tweeted, after she had become enmeshed in the council’s online reporting system that prevented her from reporting the missed bin collections.
Green waste collections are optional for Croydon households, who have to pay £61.50 for what is promised is an extra, fortnightly collection service.
In her tweets, Shawcross accused Croydon’s rubbish contractors, Veolia, of lying in their reports that claimed the bin had been emptied.
Shawcross was a councillor for New Addington from 1994 to 2000, rising to become the widely respected leader of Croydon Council – it was during her administration that the Croydon Tram network was delivered. She stood down to take on another elected role, as London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, when the Assembly was inaugurated in 2000.
She continued in that role until 2016, and was soon after appointed by Sadiq Khan as his deputy mayor for transport, a position Shawcross held until last May.
Last week, Shawcross’s mounting frustration was evident from her messages on social media, directed at Veolia, the council’s Twitter account and to Stuart Collins, the council cabinet member for dirty streets and fly tips.
Posted on Friday, the tweets vanished shortly after Collins had been engaged, and after Shawcross her copied in her complaints to Inside Croydon.
Shawcross, who lives near Crystal Palace, told Inside Croydon that she was “furious with Veolia for failing its customers and not seeming to care”.
In her public Twitter thread, Shawcross had begun cheerily enough by laying out the circumstances. Alongside a photograph of the unattended bin, Shawcross waxed poetic, writing, “I’m a little waste bin tall and stout, I’ve sat full at my gate (since 17th Jan) so clear me out!”
She added, “Three missed collections later I’m still here, turning into veggie soup all this year.”
And Shawcross also had some advice for the council over the handling of the borough’s waste management services. “@YourCroydon this service is failing so please fix it or bin Veolia.”
When Collins and council officials responded to her appeal (with the usual formal request for reference numbers for a missed collection report), she replied by explaining, “We’ve emailed the council previously and spoken to officer [what council staff like to be called] and councillors. The web system won’t let us report it because Veolia log it as ‘not presented’ despite it being at my front gate for weeks now. It will not accept a missed collection report.”
Then, whoever it is staffing the council Twitter account advised that missed bin collections “can only be reported through the system within two days of the scheduled collection”, identifying another entirely arbitrary means of letting contractors Veolia off the hook.
Shawcross responded to that by saying: “This missed collection is today.
“The previous missed collection we also tried to report on the day. If you knew your own system you would see that it won’t allow a missed bin to be reported if Veolia log it as ‘not presented’.”
At the heart of the issue, of course, is Veolia being allowed to monitor their own work, effectively marking their own homework, with no Croydon Council staff allocated to checking the contractors’ performance.
“We have been to the @YourCroydon waste team,” Shawcross wrote. “The website you refer us to is the one that won’t accept a missed bin report from us because it has logged it as ‘not presented bin’ (they @VeoliaUK are lying). If Kafka did a waste service, this would be it!”
Shawcross also wrote that “despite contact with a helpful officer and councillor, they seem unable to get it sorted”.
On Saturday morning, after Collins had intervened and Inside Croydon had been invoked, Shawcross’s green bin was emptied by Veolia. “At last,” she said.
Shawcross declined to explain what it was that persuaded her to remove her highly critical Twitter thread, although it is almost certainly the case that when she was council leader, it was not necessary to have the senior councillor responsible for waste management to intervene on individuals’ behalf just to get the bins emptied.
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So far this year my green waste has been collected only twice.
Sounds like my fight to get my Christmas tree collected. First Croydon Council said I should have reported a missed collection through my My Account (which isn’t possible for Christmas trees). Then they said it had to be reported within 2 days (it was). Then they said it would be collected by Monday (it wasn’t). Four emails later it was finally collected. The wasted time on both my side and the Council’s side is astonishing, just to get a Christmas tree collected that should have happened automatically!
Val Shawcross is wrong. The whole bin saga is not so much Kafka, more Salvador Dali twinned with Monty Python!
The Council’s website doesn’t work. If you ring them you reach an automated switchboard which refers you back to the website that doesn’t work. The only official way I can find of communicating with the Council is to write them an old fashioned snail mail letter and it can only be a matter of time before they hermetically seal up their letterbox too.
There should be a law that the Council have to have at least 1 working official general purpose email account.
To truly reflect reality perhaps Anthony Miller’s final paragraph could be rephrased as :
There should be a law that the Council has to have at least 1 general purpose working official ?