And so it starts…

If us residents of Thurrock want our brown bins (garden + some kitchen waste) emptied, we may be asked to pay another £30 a year for the privilege. If we don’t want to pay, we have the option of returning our brown bins and trying to find other ways of disposing of the waste that would have gone in them. Also, our green bins (general, unrecyclable waste) will only be collected fortnightly. It looks as though a number of bin collectors will lose their jobs.

This is how it was covered by Thurrock Nub News: £30 additional charge for brown bin collections, green bins to go to fortnightly collection – big changes for Thurrock waste collection set to go through. Fury from councillors who say their recycling strategy work has been wasted by cost-cutting. Not so much a headline, more an executive summary!

This news has come as a surprise to a fair few of the councillors on the cross party working group on the council’s recycling and waste strategy. They claim that these drastic changes in policy have been sneaked in and that the year’s worth of work they have put in on the group has been wasted. Of course, the ruling Tory are claiming the it was the working group that came up with the changes to the collection strategy. Cue the usual intra council blame games and arse covering!

The thing is, for a lot of residents, the bin collection is one of the most regular contacts they have with council services. When for whatever reason, that service goes pear shaped, it gets noticed. When that service gets cut, people understandably get angry.

As expected, the cost to the council of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is being blamed. This has to be seen in the context of the scale of Thurrock Council’s speculative borrowing which was raised earlier this year: This is right off the scale! Sean Clark, the senior council officer responsible for the borrowing of over a billion pounds to effectively play the investment markets, stated back in June that the cost of dealing with the crisis at that point was half a million pounds but that he was concerned if the impact went on into 2021. Well, it sure as heck feels like the COVID-19 crisis will be a never ending saga so Clark may well be a very worried man at the moment. Particularly if the estimate of the Labour opposition on the council that the budget shortfall could be £20 million is accurate.

A fair few residents have already commented that £10 million of that shortfall could be clawed back if Thurrock Council slammed the brakes on their vanity project of extending their offices in New Road Grays. Mind you, that would be too late for the businesses whose premises have already been demolished to make way for this scheme: A good call but too late for some. It will be interesting to see whether the council have the humility to do the right thing – we won’t be holding our breath though.

To conclude, Austerity 2.0 is underway and things will get painful. People will be getting angry. There’s everything to play for…

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