Lib Dem councillor George Allan: 'The current private scheme may not be perfect but industrial relations are good and rubbish is collected on time and regularly'
Published: 6 July, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
A DECISION to bring household rubbish collections and street cleaning back under direct control of the Town Hall was branded a “recipe for industrial strife” at a meeting of Islington Council this week.
The Labour-controlled council expects to be able to save £3million by running refuse collections and cleaning streets directly rather than continuing to use a private company, as has been done for the past 15 years.
But Lib Dem opposition councillors warned that there was a danger that rubbish collections and street cleansing could be put in jeopardy by impossible union demands.
The plan is to employ 400 in-house staff in waste, recycling, street cleaning and grounds maintenance services when the current £23 million contract with Enterprise Islington Ltd finishes next June.
In 2009 the company - owned by Enterprise Plc, based in Lancashire - made profits of £1.5m.
Enterprise Plc own numerous subsideries providing services to local authorities throughout the country and turns over £1bn. In turn Enterprise Plc is owned by the international private equity company 3i which has assets of £10.5bn.
The changeover was agreed at Tuesday night’s meeting of the coun-cil’s ruling Executive.
Labour’s environment chief Councillor Paul Smith claimed that the direct control scheme would bring about savings, efficiencey and greater flexibility.
He suggested that the council might negotiate to bring some of the services back in-house earlier than next year.
But opposition spokesman Lib Dem councillor George Allan warned that, rather than improving waste management, Islington could become a borough “beholden” to the unions.
He added: “There are memories of industrial strife in London and rubbish piling up and not being collected when the trade unions didn’t get their own way.
“The current private scheme may not be perfect but industrial relations are good and rubbish is collected on time and regularly.
"There was a time when the refuse collectors wouldn’t work at weekends or public holidays.
"That’s all changed thanks to good working practices.”
Cllr Allan thought the reasons behind the in-house scheme were more “ideological” than practical.
The plan follows the decision to bring housing under direct control, with the closure of agency Homes for Islington.
Cllr Paul Smith said direct control will save money because the council is no longer paying overheads to a private contractor.
“Industrial problems are just as possible with a private contractor as they are under direct control,” he said.
“But you have the added problem of being locked into a long-term deal.
“The council is using this opportunity to engage and work in co-operation with the unions to avoid strife.
“We want to provide the best possible service in a time of huge cuts from central government.
“Our number one priority is making sure services like bin collections continue to be on time and efficient.
"We also strongly believe a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is the best way to ensure quality services.
"We’d like to thank our contractor, Enterprise, for their hard work, including their apprenticeships, which we will continue to develop.”