Conservative Leader and Scrutiny Panel Chair, Cllr Howard Jones, has delayed the implementation of the Berrylands waste collection trial so that the Scrutiny Panel can check the Lib Dem Administration’s plans before they are put into effect.
We Tories were incensed that no mention of the planned trial (due to start on 6th November) was made at the detailed Scrutiny of the Waste Disposal Strategy by the Council’s Scrutiny Panel on 5th September.
Plans for such a lengthy and far-reaching trial, due to start only two months after the meeting, must have been well advanced by September 5th – yet no mention of them was made to the Panel by any of those who gave evidence, including Cllr Liz Shard and Cllr Derek Osbourne.If the plans were genuinely thrown together in haste, there’s a real risk that they haven’t been carefully thought through and that the scheme will prove an expensive failure.
The Executive decided to proceed with the trial on 3rd October. The Council’s Constitution allows any 100 citizens or three Councillors or the Chair of the Scrutiny Panel to call in any such decision within five working days of the Executive minutes being published. If the decision is not ‘called-in’ it can be proceeded with without further ado.
Howard Jones called in the decision after the 3rd October minutes were published – only to be told that resources had already been committed. His reaction? ‘I was flabbergasted to be told that Cllr Shard had evidently authorized the commitment of resources, although she must have known what the Constitution said about the decision making and implementation process. In reality she must have committed resources ahead even of the Executive’s endorsement of the action she intended to take.’
Last week Howard Jones tried many times to resolve the situation by letter and email, agreeing to scrutinise the decision without holding up its implementation on condition that Cllrs Shard and Osbourne apologise for acting ultra vires and promise not to do so again in future. He also wanted assurances that the Executive would take on board Scrutiny Panel concerns about the implementation of the trial.
In my view these might range around the micro-chipping of bins, fortnightly collections of waste and provision of adequate bins for separating out recyclable materials.
Instead of apologising for the failure to follow the Constitution, Cllr. Shard embarked on a feeble defence of her actions, trying to suggest that the trial had been discussed on 5th September after all. Howard pointed out to her, ‘If you failed to take account of (our right to scrutiny) in your planning, that is your fault and so is the possible dislocation resulting from our decision to exercise it.’
The final position, reached on Friday 20th October, was that the full Scrutiny will go ahead at the next meeting of the Panel on Tuesday 31st October and that all work on the trial will cease until that has taken place.
The Lib Dems have needlessly created a mess as a result of their arrogance. We tried honestly to help them out of it. All they had to do was to say ‘Sorry’ – but that word seems not to be in their vocabulary.