Tag Archives: budget cuts

Lambeth Council: Capita contract

Kaye Wiggins reports from Lambeth Council

Last night’s council meeting was a much calmer affair than a previous meeting,  when protesters stormed the chamber and forced the councillors out.

There was a handful of quiet observers and the evening ran to a tight schedule, finishing after just an hour and 20 minutes.

Still, an important decision was passed: the council’s cabinet approved a plan to give a contract worth around £60m over 10 years to the services company Capita. The contract is to provide the council’s revenue collection (which includes council tax collection) and telephone customer services.

The Lib Dem councillor Alex Davies was quick to point out that Capita already ran Lambeth’s council tax collection. He pointed to that day’s front-page London Evening Standard article, which said Lambeth had more uncollected council tax than any other London borough, and asked whether it was a good idea to give the company any more responsibility.

Davies also said the plan meant jobs would be moved to Southampton. “This is untold upheaval, without notice,” he said.

“Staff were told about the decision by email, out of office hours. That’s not a nice email to find in your inbox. It’s no way to treat staff,” he said.

But Labour councillors were keen to point out the benefits. Councillor Pete Robbins said it would mean a £500,000 increase per year in council tax revenue if targets were met, and said Capita had agreed to create 40 apprenticeships as part of the contract.

The council leader, Steve Reed, described the contract as “an improved service at a reduced cost with community benefits.”

The new contract aims to save £10m over 10 years: a big sum, but still just a tiny fraction of the £79m the council must save this year alone.

Also at the meeting…

The council approved a new carbon management plan for its buildings. Under the plan, individual council departments will be responsible for their own energy budgets.

The council approved a new Local Implementation Plan for transport, which it will submit to Transport for London. The plan includes measures to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians in Lambeth.

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OPINION: Compulsory recycling? Thank God.

In a riposte to the opinion piece below, another tweeter Glenn Guest defends the policy to hand out fines to those who don’t recycle

Recycling is now compulsory. And rightly so. As with everything that is mandatory, there needs to be some kind of penalty attached. In this case, a fine of up to £1000.

According to the letter we all received, recycling waste costs half that of disposing by incineration or landfill. In this period of austerity, such a simple, pragmatic way to reduce costs helps channel much needed funds into other crucial areas –  schools, care for the elderly, or ambulance services, for example.

Recyclable waste has commercial value too. Councils can sell on recyclable items, if they are clean and correctly sorted. Putting extra effort into recycling can help lessen the pinch of budgetary cuts, which will only be a good thing.

The more recycling we do, the better. We are running out of landfill space and, besides that, the 1500 landfill sites in the UK produce a quarter of our methane emissions – a huge, unwanted contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Under the new rules, bulky items – I’ve seen wardrobes left out for the bin men – won’t see out their days rotting in some landfill site, impacting on climate change.

Now we will have to see if they can be donated to someone who can reuse them, be it through charities or websites like Freecycle. Reusing is even more green and cost effective than recycling, and allows those less fortunate to benefit from stuff you no longer need.

I do feel passionately about recycling: I used to live with two guys, in Tower Hamlets – which, incidentally, has the lowest ratio of recycling in London, due to it’s ‘more cost effective’ communal recycling facilities – who didn’t think  recycling applied to them. Grown men who were just too damn lazy, arrogant and ignorant to walk 30 yards to the pink dumpster, preferring to chuck perfectly recyclable stuff down the rubbish chute.

Luckily, we have kerbside collections in Lambeth. Under the new rules, that’s exactly where our waste must be presented. This is to aid timely collection of our detritus, allowing extra time for the ‘collection crew to check for contamination.’ Is the right stuff in the right bag? Get this wrong, and you might receive a stern letter or two…get it wrong consistently and you could get fined £1000.

This could be difficult to police: our ‘house’ is actually 4 ‘households,’ so how would they know whose was whose? Also, the ruling on garden waste being banned from wheelie bins, now a subscription-only service, conjures imagines of gardeners creeping on tippy-toes, fly-tipping into a neighbouring subscriber’s brown bin…

From what I can gather, if the bin men do identify you as persistently flouting the rules, your rubbish will be analysed for three weeks in a row, and if you don’t sharpen up, you will receive letters, then visits from council officers. If you still don’t improve, that’s when you get fined. So it needn’t come to a fine, for any of us.

There certainly needs to be more education – the new rule “plastic pots, tubs and trays (food packaging) will be accepted” surprised me. Our household was recycling them already, apparently this was wrong. So, yes, I agree with Clare Richardson that there needs to be more ‘hand-holding’ but it’s the ‘hand scolding’ that gets people talking and brings gravitas to the situation.


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Photos from tonight’s anti-cuts demo, Brixton Town Hall

Blocking the road to protest against lollipop ladies losing their jobs

Photos: Kaye Wiggins

And a short video to give a taste of the protest (taken by Zoe Jewell):

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A snapshot of Brixton’s library protest

Local resident Rod Smith, librarians Abibat Olulode and Anna Tomlinson

Kaye Wiggins reports from Saturday’s protest against cuts to library services

Abibat Olulode, who works at Brixton library, and Anna Tomlinson, from the library in Streatham, are among a group of around 100 people who staged a protest outside Brixton library yesterday. They say they have no idea what Lambeth council’s spending cuts will mean for the service because they haven’t been told.

“All I know is what I’ve read in the South London Press,” says Abibat. “But it’s obvious that there are going to be big cuts.”

She says she fears the library’s outreach services will be hardest hit by the cuts. “The money we get will be for our core service, so we will have to stop the other work,” she says. “This means things like literacy development activities, reading groups and programmes to help refugees. These services are for the more vulnerable people yet they’re being hit the hardest. That’s why we’re here to protest.”

The deputy leader of Lambeth Council, Jackie Meldrum, visited the library on the morning of the protest, but Abibat says this wasn’t enough to reassure the protesters. “I didn’t hear her, but I expect she just said what she always says – that we have to blame the cuts on the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the government,” she says.

“I think she’s wrong about that. The council shouldn’t be complicit in finding mealy-mouthed ways to make these cuts. It should stand up to the government and demand more money.”

Rod Smith, a retired Unison member and a regular user of Brixton library, says he is worried about the council’s plans to transfer responsibility for running libraries to community groups, who would make greater use of volunteers to run the service.

“If you want libraries to be run properly, you need paid, trained staff,” he says. “Why should people’s public services be run by volunteers?

“The council is the biggest employer in Lambeth. It is setting a bad example by saying to other employers that it’s ok to let people work for free instead of paying professionals.”

Abibat points out that she has a masters degree in information service management. “How many of the volunteers will have that qualification?” she says. “They won’t, and they’ll quit when the work gets tough.”


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