Our Merton correspondent, NORMAN COLLIER-WOOD, reports on how the toxic fall-out from rubbish contractor Veolia’s shortcomings has claimed its first council victim
Merton’s rubbish councillor, Mike Brunt, has been sacked from his council cabinet post.
Labour councillor Brunt had been the chair of the South London Waste Partnership, which has controversial multi-million-pound deals on behalf of four boroughs, including Croydon, with rubbish contractors Veolia and licensed air polluters Viridor.
Brunt has borne the, err… brunt of criticism from residents in his borough for the #MuckyMerton failure of Veolia to deliver on the bin and street cleaning contracts they were signed up to with the SLWP. At the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday, the councillor for Figges Marsh ward was removed from his job – and £8,694 in council allowances – in charge of environment and street cleanliness with the kind of blunt efficiency so lacking from the borough’s waste contractors.
Merton Council leader Stephen Alambritis was ruthless in his despatch of Brunt, who was first elected to the council in 1990. When Brunt arrived at the meeting in Merton’s civic offices in Morden, he needed to ask council officials where to sit, as his usual position had been reallocated.
Inside Croydon understands that the sacking was the unanimous decision of Brunt’s Labour council colleagues, who have become concerned at the mounting adverse publicity over missed bin collections. Merton even staged an emergency council meeting to debate the matter in February, though the Labour-controlled council rejected calls for the Veolia contract to be cancelled.
Brunt was the sole cabinet sacking announced on Wednesday night. The rubbish responsibilities have now been split, and are to be handled by Mark Allison, Alambritis’s deputy leader and the cabinet member for finance, and Tobin Byers, who has been handed the renamed cabinet position of “environment”.
Brunt was not in the Merton Labour group’s offices when Inside Croydon called yesterday, and nor has he returned our calls.
The Veolia contract with Merton is similar to that under which they provide a rubbish service in Croydon, Sutton and Kingston. Croydon, through council deputy leader Stuart Collins, is due to take over the chairing of the SLWP and host its meetings from September.
The four boroughs in the SLWP are each due to pay £10million per year Viridor to burn their rubbish over 25 years, amounting to a £1billion contract. Croydon’s contract with Viridor includes a clause which requires the operators to deal with radioactive waste.
The Beddington Lane incinerator was due to be operational from August 2018, but is still undergoing testing.
During his time as SLWP chair, Brunt became something of an apologist for Viridor, merrily spouting the corporate line that the incinerator operators would provide “one of the most open and transparent approaches to the publication of emissions monitoring data anywhere in the country”.
The reality has so far been quite different.
Although carrying permits from the Environment Agency, the Viridor incinerator is not independently monitored. Viridor get to mark their own homework, and they don’t release the results immediately, either.
Emissions data is issued fortnightly, not in “real time”, and usually about 10 days after the period it covers. Nothing at all was published until March this year, even though the incinerator has been test burning since December.
From the data that has been provided so far, and even though it is not yet fully operational, it is clear that the Beddington Lane incinerator – despite Brunt’s assurances – is close to the limit for Nitrogen Oxides and Sulphur Dioxide.
The Viridor incinerator has already twice been in breach of emissions limits for Carbon Monoxide. On each occasion, it appeared that the incinerator had to be shut down, in one case for several days.
Yet just last month, Brunt was saying publicly that Viridor’s monitoring of their own incinerator, “should provide local residents with the reassurances they need that the emissions from the facility are being very carefully monitored and are safe”.
The councillor may have a little more time to reflect on such assurances now.
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