Kerbside: the gloves are off

Saturday, 29 November 2008

On a cold November morning, over two hundred people today packed into the Good Shepherd Church in Mytholmroyd for a public meeting to discuss the future of Kerbside, our community recycling service.

Kerbside director Chris Haddock chaired the meeting and introduced Paul Brannigan, Chief Executive.

Kerbside public meeting

Part of the public meeting - photo: Jason Elliott

Paul Brannigan told the meeting that Kerbside was owned by the 60,000 people and businesses in Calderdale. Kerbside recycles people and materials. It offers opportunities to people who would otherwise face barriers to employment. Paul believes that everyone has the right to work and Kerbside wants to increase people's self-worth through work.

Kerbside has been offered a contract where they collect bulky household goods in Calderdale, but give up recycling. It would mean considerable redundancies and no more household collections of the kind Kerbside has been so good at. The meeting today was to ballot those present as to whether to accept this offer or whether it wanted Kerbside to continue in the business of recycling and household collections.

If Kerbside had the same arrangements that it had had with Focsa, it would still be sustainable.

Calderdale know very well that Kerbside provides the best recycling service in terms of both materials and participation. There is an over 50% takeup in the areas Kerbside cover compared with 35% for the rest of the council. For every £1000 Kerbside is paid, an extra £630 is provided by Kerbside in social benefits. For example, if its workers were not employed by Kerbside, they would probably need state benefits.

Calderdale were not interested in recycling before Kerbside

Ten years ago in 1998, local people asked Calderdale to start recycling, and they said no. So Kerbside was formed. It was not until 2004 that Calderdale finally came on board. The council say they do everything they can to involve the voluntary and community sectors. While the tender for which SITA won the contract originally had a requirement to include voluntary and community sectors, Paul Brannigan said that two of the bidders have told him that they were asked to remove voluntary and community sector costings from the final bids.

The gloves are now off

Kerbside have tried every possible avenue to reach a settlement with Calderdale but it hasn't worked. Local people have voted who they want with their recycling. They have chosen Kerbside's Black Box. SITA are driving around collecting nearly nothing. Kerbside recycling is up on last year. They deliver a recycling service which is second to none. Paul Brannigan told the meeting that today is the turning point; the gloves have to come off.


Paul Brannigan answers questions - photo: Jason Elliott

Members of the public asked questions and made further points, some raising questions about the possibility of legal action against Calderdale. One person said we need to know just which Calderdale councillors support what the council are doing to Kerbside. Paul Brannigan replied that as far as he could tell all Labour and Liberal Democrats are supportive of Kerbside. But the council is run by a Cabinet of 7 members, all of whom are Conservative.

"I am ashamed of what Calderdale has done to Kerbside"

Peter Coles, Liberal Democrat councillor for Luddenden Foot, told the meeting: "There are times when I am ashamed to be a Calderdale councillor. And this is one of them. I am ashamed of what Calderdale has done to Kerbside. Sadly, the contract is signed with SITA. Know who you are criticising when you are criticising Calderdale Council. I don't know any Calderdale councillors who are not in favour of Kerbside, except the Cabinet. Be aware that it is not a good contract, be aware of who signed that contract, of who even saw that contract. There are 51 councillors on Calderdale. Seven people saw that contract. Be aware too of who can put it right. Cabinet can put it right. And central government could put it right. My estimate of what Kerbside saves the country is half a million pounds."

Peter Coles speaking to the meeting - YouTube from Mytholmroyd Net

Chris Haddock said that two people bore most reasonsibility for Calderdale's decision. One was Cllr Graham Reason who has never even bothered to visit Kerbside. The other is Calderdale's Chief Legal Officer, Owen Williams who "contorted" the tendering process so that it didn't in the end include the voluntary and community sectors. He said Calderdale makes Stalin's Government look like the Rainbow Federation.

Chris Haddock gives the secret ballot result - photo: Jason Elliott

The secret ballot result was 178 going for "no deal" and for Kerbside to continue recycling in the way it has done so successfully, with just one person opting to accept Calderdale's latest offer.

Kerbside are now committed to carrying on with their collections, and are in a position to do so until some time in the new year. To be successful they will need the continued active and financial support of the community.

See also

Kerbside website

Hebweb Forum - Barbara Green's plea to write to Hazel Blears

Hebweb News: Halifax demonstration, July 2008

Hebweb YouTube video of Town Hall demo, July 2008


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