The contract Sutton Council has with Veolia has 29 performance targets, each one with penalties for failure.
But the Council don’t tell you what they are. They don’t tell you if they’re hitting the targets. And they don’t tell you how many penalties they’ve issued, if any at all. So how do we know if they’re actually doing what we pay them to do?
That’s why two years ago I put them on the spot, forced the Lib Dems to a vote where they agreed to publish it all on the Council website – the targets, the performance, and the penalties. But 2 years on and they still haven’t done it. What are they hiding? And where is the money we’re owed for the penalties?
Here’s the story: In April 2017 Veolia took over waste collection and street cleaning in Sutton, part of a £200 million contract covering 4 boroughs: Sutton, Croydon, Merton, and Kingston. We all remember the early chaos – streets of forgotten bins lined up for collection, people queuing laps round B&Q car park for recycling boxes, and the ruling Lib Dems who all went and hid.
In that contract there are 29 performance targets, in effect they define what it is we’re paying Veolia to do. It’s the job spec. A couple of examples: any litter bin that’s full or overflowing must be emptied within 2 hours, and the penalty repeats every 2 hours until it’s emptied. Each house has 4 bins, they’re allowed to miss one of those bins every 25 years. And they must go back and empty it the next day. For street cleaning, streets must be swept to grade A standard, and a messy street must be cleaned within 24 hours – or within 2 hours if it’s a town centre.
There are 29 of these targets, and a cash penalty every time they miss one. But they won’t tell you how often they’ve missed one, and they won’t tell you what’s happened to the cash penalties.
The Lib Dems want you to think that they don’t have enough money to do these basic jobs properly. But if Veolia met the service standard in the contract, the service we’re paying them for, then I think most people would be quite content with the service - the litter bins would be empty, the streets would be swept, and you’d go about a quarter of a century before they miss your household bin!
The question is, why is that not happening? And how can we be in the 4th year of this contract, and still not have this information published? Two years after they promised to do it.
I think the problem is, the Lib Dems are weak at enforcing the contract, they let the contractor get away with it, and hide the data that would expose that.
So I’m going to keep pushing them, in the meantime next time you notice the streets not swept, graffiti not cleared, or bins not emptied – just remember, it’s not lack of money, it’s lack of will.