Monday, 13 June 2011

Waste Collection on the Fourth Estate

I've always been a little suspicious of The Chronicle after I did an interview many years ago which mentioned Martin Salter and where I commented on some verifiable facts, indeed I even provided sources for them. They spiked it on the grounds that it was "controversial" rather than factually inaccurate. The Post printed the one I did for them.

Sadly the Chronicle is an establishment paper and for too long that establishment has been Labour. Therefore I wasn't surprised to see them make up a headline: "Lib Dems caught out attacking their own budget cuts" and use the words "The Lib Dem opposition has been left red-faced" based on some rather fallacious remarks from Tony Page and no independent evidence that either statement was true. There was no budget cut so no-one could be caught out or left red-faced.

"Labour claim..." would have been fair but editorially I guess that's repetition and was not necessary before publishing what appears to have started life as opinion piece.

The disappointing part is that I patiently explained to their reporters that there was no cut, why it was not a cut and pointed them to the gold book which contains the budget options where any budget cut or saving would be listed. They still went ahead and published it with a misleading headline and content. I'll be charitable and put it down to them not understanding the subject matter rather than never letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

This appears to be the bit that their reporters and editor can't seem to grasp. For there to be a budget cut or a budget saving... it has to be in the budget. Not even the council press statement referred to changes as being part of the budget. The Chronicle simply made up the idea of it being a budget cut to get a sexier headline.

I guess I should be grateful that they at least printed my comment, even if it didn't set alarm bells ringing about the veracity of their story.

I've been looking further into what happened and had a meeting in Friday to discuss what went wrong. The March decision by officers was not to scrap additional collections but to do them during the week rather than pay out extra for overtime. That might have annoyed some staff, but residents were still going to get extra collections under the coalition administration and the resources in terms of staff and vehicles to do so were protected budget items.

An analogy of what happened is that the coalition gave Streetcare enough money to buy some Heinz beans from Morrison's and they discovered that they could buy the same tin cheaper at the local shop. Only an idiot would have a problem with that. I guess Labour policy would be to send them back to get it from Morrison's at the higher price!

It is clear from my meeting on Friday to discuss the matter with council officers that at the time that decision being made there was no cut envisaged. Equivalent service means no cut. Geddit?

So far so good.

How then do we explain to Labour's behaviour? Given that, as explained, there was no cut proposed, how did we get to Jan Gavin, Keith Jerome, Graham Hoskins, Tony Page, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all shrieking on about Con-Dem cuts? The only explanation that holds up is that they took a decision to cut the service and planned to blame it on the coalition. It's why once caught out they had to lie about their actions and try to displace the blame.

What is the real story?

We now know conclusively that it was Labour who scrapped the extra collections because it was the Labour administration that told the Redlands NAG they had been scrapped. Even more damning, their own council press release confirmed it to be a Labour cut when it stated that the end of term collections would be "dealt with through the usual scheduled collection." Those were the first mentions ever that the extra collections were not going to be made.

The question then is when did Paul Gittings make his decision to scrap the coalition's extra collections? His press statement is quite clear that Labour were going to handle the end of term collections only using the usual scheduled collections. That was never the intention of the officers' decision made in March and it is shoddy of Labour to put them in the firing line making them take the blame for a cut that they made themselves.

The swift restoration of the coalitions plans for end of term student collections shows up Labour's words on this subject for what they are - lies. If the coalition had left no capacity in the system to deal with these collections and as they have publicly claimed got rid of the vehicles then Streetcare couldn't possibly have been able to reinstate them so quickly. The capacity was there all along. I know, I left it there.

To clear the extra waste using the alternate weekly collections alone was clearly an additional cut made by Labour and I believe made to compensate for the £26,000 they are losing each month because of their uncosted promises in Streetcare. It's also their first use of their strategic plan to blame every unnecessary cut they make on the coalition. Shame it's all unravelled for them so quickly.

I'm not going to waste my time asking for apologies for their bullshit because most people understand that they simply cannot be trusted.

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