I sometimes get the feeling that Sutton Council works despite councillors rather than because of them. The 3,500 people that work for the local authority deserve credit for their achievments. Sutton had a reputation for environmental initiatives. The LibDems scored a few hits in this regard despite some failures such as the £250k gas powered dustcarts that didn’t work and the photo of dustmen emptying brown and green wheelie bins into the same lorry, which undermined their appeal to get people to do their bit. The introduction of fortnightly collections of the brown bins was perhaps the low tide mark that the Council needed to judge its actions by.
I’m afraid the water is well out at the moment following the introduction of the unpopular £35 per bag green garden waste. Conservatives working on the overall waste minimisation strategy warned that the charge was unjustified and required clear communication with residents if it was to be taken up. It is only now, five months after the Executive agreed to the charge that they are consulting with residents. Residents have been left with the idea at various times that the £35 charge was for as many bags as required, that the Conservatives agreed with the policy and that paying the charge would allow them to throw away as much as before until they saw the tiny green jute bags. 5000 bags have been bought to date despite the Council obtaining 38,000 bags in the expectation of them flying off the shelves. A second amenity point has had to be opened on the weekend in Beddington Lane to take the pressure of the dump at Kimpton Road, costing £5,000 per week. Despite this move, residents still face queues of up to an hour at the Kimpton dump.
The Council have had the Audit Commission in for the last fortnight or so, going through everything with a fine toothcomb for what is known as the corporate assessment. Every controversial decision has been kicked into touch until September when the inspectors will have written up their report, so we end up in the position of a consultation with a limited number of residents that will last the summer, when people need the collection service most.
We have reached the point when I hope that the Lead Councillor for the Environment, e-government and Efficiency will pass on the reins of power to someone else who can restore public confidence in this service. I have written about problems with parking services and the introduction of free laptops for councillors both of which come under his remit but it is the unpopular £35 charge and in particular the way in which it has been handled which brings me to propose a vote of no confidence at the next Council meeting on 21st July. On a number of occasions, officers have been made scapegoats and paid with their livelihoods. I hope in this instance, the person in charge of the policy takes responsibility and makes a principled resignation.