Council Waste Contract & Incinerator
Labour wants to see a radical change in our waste management with contracts brought back in-house and the Incinerator contract reviewed as soon as possible. Below is how we would seek to achieve that.
Waste Collection and Recycling
- We would conduct a public enquiry into the waste collection contract with Veolia and properly consult residents as to what waste collection services they prefer. We will use contract compliance, “service improvement notices”, fines and break clauses to force rapid change and that will include the option of ending the contract and insourcing a new contract in the same way as we would consider for the incinerator contract. As an immediate step we would also contact the other three Councils with a proposal to separate Executive and Scrutiny functions on the contract so that a 4 borough Joint Scrutiny Body was established to hold its Board to account. This might also help all 4 Councils more rapidly come to decision as to whether the current contract was “fit for purpose” or whether a joint process moving towards individual or collective insourcing by boroughs occurred. Other boroughs have serious concerns about the contract already and even opposition Lib Dems in Merton now argue for the option of insourcing and the current danger is Sutton with so few direct staff and allegedly “too busy” Councillors will as usual be left following behind on decisions made by others.
- Set a target of 65% recycling after consultation with residents and develop more education and practical support for residents on how to recycle, especially those in flats. We also want to see more reuse and upcyling and support local voluntary groups promoting that
- Move to an increase in street cleaning frequency in key areas. We will expand area teams to cover most environmental services in the coming years. We will also make current contracted street cleaning staff permanent thus creating proper jobs
- Aim to see if “community spring cleans” with community skips could be reintroduced like it existed in the past.
- End the 12-visit annual limit to the Kimpton Road recycling centre. We will compile data on usage and will discuss with the GMB and other trade unions how we can do this with post-pandemic safety for recycling centre staff a prime consideration.
- Look to pilot local community recycling hubs like the ones Merton Council still has to increase recycling rates.
- Abolish the charge for Bulky Household waste service for the disabled, elderly and unwaged as part of a move to making it fully free of charge and ensure collection is within three working days.
- Look at ways to provide access protected bins for flats so they do not have to leave out refuse sacks.
- Work with retailers to move to becoming a “no plastic bag” borough.
Labour believes a truly green council would never support the building of an incinerator that will be a potential health risk; particularly one so close to residential areas. Labour remains anti-incinerator as we have been since it was first proposed prior to 2012 when Councillor John Keys resigned from the Lib Dems to join Labour over it. We also recognise that the Incinerator now exists and we would want to set out all the options for how residents retain the choice to live with it but can also determine the future of the facility.
We have a policy to allow residents to “take back control” of the future of the Sutton Incinerator. We would want to instead seek to create more ‘green collar jobs’ in the borough. Our five-point incinerator plan would be:
a) Monitoring and enforcement
- Air monitoring increased and an early warning system created for local residents. Air monitoring on its own does not make your air better as some parties naively claim. What it does do is provide a spur to some of the actions we set out here.
- Soil and water sampling increased with comparisons made with pre-building samples that would have been taken over the years across Beddington Farmlands.
- Increase transparency of the waste management system with full publication of figures of what is a) locally recycled; b) locally burnt; c) how much waste outside the 4 boroughs is burnt at the site.
- Council staff recruited to fully inspect Incinerator on a weekly basis
- CCTV cameras erected on Council land to film emissions
- All enforcement to be publicly reported
b) Citizen benefit from site whilst it exists
- Changes made to Incinerator CSR money to Council – all spending decisions to go to a Citizens Panel of local residents drawn by lot for 1-year terms in order to build up trust in use of the money.
- Conduct an initial public inquiry to review Sutton’s relationships with Incinerator company Viridor examining the entire narrative as to how the contract came about and whether any improper or illegal activity occurred and refer any evidence to Police and enforcement bodies as well as local government associations.
- Review the current Viridor contract to see how it aligns with Council policies on recycling and what actions could result from this. This would particularly include examining air quality commitments and reviewing enforcement and fines as well as break clauses.
- Review penalties for air quality breaches to see whether these can be increased as part of the contract review and break clause process.
- Oppose any increase in waste burnt and press for a reduction
- Use the Review to promote efficient recycling and incentivise schemes which reduce waste such as refill and packaging reduction.
- As part of the review set out in honest terms what would a deal to change the contract meant to residents but also set out what the option to end the incinerator contract would look like and how it would affect the borough residents.
d) Relations with other Councils
- As part of the Review discuss with other Council’s in SLWP partnership how they want to deal with issue, explaining the problems with both incineration and the current contract
- The Council will as part of its options review reserve right to fully withdraw from SLWP.
- Whatever the outcome of the Review and the options decided on, negotiations will continue with the other boroughs to develop a healthier relationship in future that does not depend on incineration
e) Resident Preferences
- Any changes to the contract or to even examine the option to end it would be explained to residents over a 6-month consultation and decision period
- It may be the Council can substantially change or even consider ending the contract through mutual agreement of the contractor and Councils and this may be less expensive than some have claimed. However, if the costs of a one-off change were large the Council would consult with residents as to how this could be paid including the option of a one-off charge to the Council Tax that could only be approved by residents through a referendum so residents in the end have the final say.
We would seek to work with other local authorities to challenge landfill taxation rules which create perverse incentives to dispose of waste in non-environmental ways such as incineration.
More on our policies towards Waste Management and Disposal along with our local Manifesto can be read here.