I have now sat on the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council for just under a year. Last Monday we spent just under 3 hours discussing the issues, but its just not working.
This is the committee that looks at vital mattes such as bin collecting, litter clearing and grass cutting. But frustratingly we are told time and time again that Serco are performing well, when in fact thousands of bins are being missed each quarter.
We are told that satisfaction ratings are exceeding set targets, though they don’t tell us how they conduct those surveys or where the figures come from.
I made this message clear to senior Tories and council officers, saying that “the people of Hatfield are fed up with paying their council tax and simply not getting the level of service that they need. Indeed many residents of Hatfield, myself included, were so disillusioned with the shambolic level of service provided by Serco’s cleaning teams that we rolled up our sleeves and did the job ourselves”. Ironically, the resident clean up in WGC was dismissed by the Lib Dems as not being successful, as only a handful of people turned up!
Cathy Roe (Organiser of Hatfield Clean up and lead campaigner against the incinerator) attended and demanded to know why things had got so bad. While I and the Labour Councillors know only too well these issues are no laughing matter to residents in Welwyn Hatfield– it was a shame to see senior Tories laughing and smirking throughout. That tells me all I needed to know about how they view the problem
During the debate on missed bins, I stated that “if a street is missed because of an operational issue with Serco, such as staff shortage or vehicle breakdown, then they must return to collect the bin as soon as possible. If they do not, residents are not getting the service that they pay for. Residents must not be expected to have several weeks’ worth of waste building up through no fault of their own. It simply is not good enough”. I cited the ongoing issues in High Dells as an example of where Serco are badly letting down residents.
The fault of all this is rooted in the councils contract with Serco– with flimsy targets, and no financial repercussions if the targets are not met. Where is the motivation to do well? WHBC and Serco should be aiming for targets of 100%, not in the 70-80% range, especially if we are paying someone else to do our work.
We have elections coming up next month. Labour Pledge to hold an immediate review into outsourced contracts like this. We believe that the service can be delivered so much more thoroughly, but in order to deliver this, we need councillors to first admit there is even a problem.
The point of my writing this is to tell you the reality. When they put leaflets through your door saying they are concerned about dealing with the problems, I want you to know that reality is that when it comes time to do just that, they sit there, laughing and ignoring what we all know is rapidly becoming a serious problem to the everyday lives of thousands of people.
A Labour council will make sure that you get the service that you pay for –not the mess you see currently. All you need to do is go and vote for it on May 5th.