Admit Mistakes And Sort Out Recycling in Ely

PUBLISHED: 12:43 20 May 2010 | UPDATED: 13:34 02 June 2010

THERE has been a recent spate of correspondence regarding the financial acumen of the rival Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups in their respective years of control at East Cambs District Council I should like to move the discussion on, but with the

THERE has been a recent spate of correspondence regarding the financial acumen of the rival Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups in their respective years of control at East Cambs District Council

I should like to move the discussion on, but with the addition of the quality of service delivered for money spent.

My example would be the domestic waste collection service. Most people want good recycling facilities, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council began the effort to improve and excel in this area. In 1999/2000, ECDC was top of the league in Cambridgeshire on 16 per cent recycling; the other districts were all on single figures with Fenland on 6 per cent and Huntingdonshire just scraping 10 per cent. Fast forward to 2009 and we find that Huntingdonshire is on 57 per cent and ECDC is on 37 per cent. This has recently fallen further to 35 per cent and completes a neat reversal where our authority is by some 20 per cent the worst performer.

ECDC is now missing national and local targets to which it has signed up. This will in due course affect the amount of central government support on which it is heavily dependent. Worse still, the existing collection service prioritises landfill by offering an unlimited weekly black bag collection, while offering recycling on a fortnightly basis. The recent removal of the plastics collection and Tetrapak bottle banks will not help the situation. The council is likely to face further pressures to sort different streams of recyclables in future, our current collection methods will not allow this.

Immediately after the last district council elections when the Conservatives took control a new contract was let with Veolia. The Liberal Democrats openly supported an alternate weekly service as all our neighbours enjoy. This would have increased our recycling rates to similar high levels.

Critically one of the bidders for the contract could have been chosen offering alternate weekly collections using three containers. That high performing option would have been cheaper than the existing bag system. The Conservatives did not listen to reasoned economic and social arguments then, and have cost the district dear. Not only would the contract have been cheaper, but the council would have earned extra in terms of recycling credit rewards, the amounts per annum would have been in six figures.

For those properties that could not accommodate bins, a bag option would be made available, as happens across Cambridgeshire. Interestingly our neighbours have higher resident's satisfaction. I would propose that the district council make urgent and radical changes to the service on both economic and environmental grounds.

Recent difficulties with the bottle banks are a symptom of a much greater problem that really must be grappled with. The Liberal Democrat group look forward to an improved service and will support changes that bring real improvements, but the Conservative group must admit past mistakes; make evidence-based decisions, accept advice and move on.

CLLR IAN ALLEN

Liberal Democrat spokesman for Environment and Transport

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