Cllr Stephanos Ioannou represents Southgate Ward on Enfield Council. He is Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Greece Group
It always starts with a public consultation. The consultation that promises to listen to residents concerns, the consultation that promises to hear and act on views laid out by residents, and of course a consultation that promises that the decision isn’t already predetermined or decided upon by those actually running the council.
What happened in Enfield was none of the above. The 6,000 residents who signed a petition against the proposed plans, along with the logical alternative budget proposed by the Conservative opposition, proved this wasn’t a sensible decision, and that this decision was predetermined and undemocratic given the circumstances and response from the wider public.
The free weekly food recycling, optional paid green waste service, and fortnightly collection service for rubbish and recycling, does not serve the interests of families across our borough.
For residents and their families, this will put excessive strain on the already limited space they have in their bins. I have received hundreds, if not near a thousand, emails from residents that choose to go through their local councillor, rather than the council’s own portal, to report a missed collection. This is in no way a sensible state of affairs, and indeed residents feel the council aren’t competent in dealing with the issues partly generated by them.
Residents do not deserve to pay for what is a mandatory and fully-entitled service for green waste. As Enfield lies at the edge of the north London boundary, it’s obvious to suggest that green waste will be more necessary here compared to other inner city boroughs. Enfield council have let down residents who rely on this service for the maintenance of their gardens, and this is a blind miscalculated decision that will affect the activity of all residents in their gardens- as residents will for sure think twice before going out multiple times to their garden during the week to maintain and clear excess-green. Really, the green-bin issue boils down to the administration seeking to leach on those having some garden space, and paying money for essentially what is an essential service.
Residents on one road in Enfield have resorted to an extreme length to make sure their rubbish gets thrown away- somewhere. Collectively crowdfunding more money towards the rental of a skip so that they can throw away both recycling and refuse is not just desperate, but an embarrassment for a London council that has clearly got the decision wrong. Not only does this display anger, but on a more serious note, a ticking time bomb health and safety concern for the Council that they are yet to see. Rubbish left to rot in our streets can only mean spreading potential diseases and ruining the surrounding eco-system.
Enfield Council has clearly overlooked the fact that this option was the least popular of the eight options presented to members of the public- backed by just nine per cent of the consultation respondents. And whilst two-thirds (66 per cent) wanted to keep the currently weekly collections, the council insisted that there was no clear majority for the decision to be clear cut. This ludicrous misinterpretation of the data by the Labour led administration is now laid bare for all to see, as residents are furious with the changes.
Focusing now on the council itself, I would like to express my concern that the administration has piled on unnecessary work for council employees at the expense of employees focussing on other more fruitful and important casework. Employees are spending too much time forwarding, following up, and chasing queries by councillors for all those missed collections. Furthermore, I hear the council are having to deal with an increased level of fly-tipping across the borough, and this is putting unprecedented pressure on the crews having to deal with collections. More money, time, effort, and attention having to be spent by the council on this issue as a direct result of the changes in collection is a clear indication that something needs to change, and it’s time for the administration to admit their wrongdoing and take the appropriate steps to reverse the decision back to the old scheme.
The Conservative Group made its stance known, with an opposition budget that was secure enough to restore the weekly bin collections that residents and council employees deserved. Restoring this service will restore the trust in Enfield’s democracy that was undermined in the consultation and petition. We feel that more savings could be found and more done to reduce Council operating costs including security costs for vacant buildings, ensuring the traded services break even, and gaining more income from halls for hire, as well as getting rid of the associate cabinet members. The Conservatives were proposing a five per cent reduction in the £140m operating costs which could deliver an extra £7.5m.
I would like to vent my frustration at the lacking consultation publicity by the council. Residents were horrified to receive a letter just two weeks before the deadline that the changes were taking place, and the scrambling by residents to get their views on the sheet, was not, in any way, thoughtful and democratic. Then there is the lacking education for residents after the decision was announced. Just a simple leaflet through the letterbox and a short press release in the newspapers won’t help in publicising the changes. Hardly an announcement on social media, no door knocking, and no calling to residential households to inform of the change.
This rushed and politically motivated thought-turned-decision by the Labour council has proved this is no example for other councils to take when even considering changing their waste collections. Enfield has displayed, both prior and post changes, the incapability to reassure residents the service transition will be peaceful and in working-order.
The nightmare we are facing hopefully will be turned into a Conservative victory in the next local election polls in our borough, as residents realise the catastrophic decision will only make residents lives worse.