I have inundated, as I know many councillors have been, by residents complaining that they have had difficulties with the new waste contract and haven’t been able to get through via the phone line.
I myself had to call up for my own building, as only two sets of bags were delivered for our five flats. But it took well over 20 minutes to get through (see below as it ticked over the 20:00 mark!). This is the experience of many residents, including West Hampstead Life editor Mark Stonebanks.
Knowing how difficult it is to get through to Camden usually, I asked the Labour Cabinet member for the service at a briefing for councillors on 20th March how long it would take to get through to the call centre dedicated to waste issues.
He and the head of Environmental Services promised people would be answered within six rings – so nobody should be waiting at all. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this, and said so, to which the Cabinet member replied that ensuring people didn’t have to wait to get through had been a ‘red line’ for him.
Clearly, this red line has been broken. What Camden needs to tell residents is: What happens now that it has? If this is Veolia’s fault, payment for the contract should be withheld immediately, pending a settlement for this flagrantly unacceptable performance.
But ultimately, the buck stops with Camden Labour. Opposition councillors have not been allowed to see the text of the contract that Camden has signed with Veolia, meaning we cannot ensure that residents’ interests are reflected in it or that sufficient safeguards were included when performance is unsatisfactory, as it has proven to be.
For more about my campaign to restore weekly bin collections, click here.