Why pennies do matter

The best way to start a blog is often with a cliche. Look after the pennies, we are told, however contrast this to the claim often thrown at those in opposition – you’re missing the big picture. Can you do both? Of course – anyone who decides to forgo their small indulgences in favour of saving for a house, a car, a holiday is doing just that. So why the brickbats when a councillor suggests a bit of care with small budgets?

One of the first blogs I ever wrote focused on my confusion as a new councillor at the amount of letters I get from in response to emails I’ve sent. Why can’t you email me back? I appreciate that some things have to be sent as a letter – but the ultimate snub surely to cost effectiveness is to say that one letter to one person won’t break the budget, as I have been told recently by one organisation in response to a Freedom of Information request I made. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Waste Management ““ The Saga Continues

When I interviewed Jane Forshaw, the Head of Environmental Services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on behalf of Pits n Pots, I was impressed by her straight talking and her willingness to be “Ëœopen and transparent’.

My optimism grew further when she confirmed that she would be willing to answer any follow up or supplementary questions.

My optimism was snuffed out however when I supplied a list of questions to the Council’s press and Communication Department to be forwarded on to Jane Forshaw. They replied that the request was too “Ëœresource heavy’ and we were guided down the Freedom of Information route. This came as quite a surprise given Jane’s comments in her interview ““ that questions asked under FOI tend to be one dimensional and as such can be answered in a one dimensional fashion.

So much for openness and transparency!

Today Pits n Pots submitted the following questions under

FOI through “ËœWhat Do They Know’:

Dear Stoke on Trent City Council,

I am being asked by your Press & Communications Department to make
FOI requests to gain answers to the following questions.

1] Why was a ‘collection only’ remit given to WRAP for their report
[dated 4/3/08 ref ROT019] and not ‘collection and disposal’

2] Is the remit given to WRAP the reason that, in Jane’s view, it
was flawed?

3] The report gave various solutions, one of which was option j.
This option recommended a solution close to the process adopted by
Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council who are now achieving a
recycling rate of 50% as opposed to the current rate of 40% in
Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Were all the options put forward to
the EMB, the rest of the elected members, or appropriate overview
and scrutiny committee, for consideration?

4] In the absence of any EMB/Councillor involvement, who took the
decision to adopt the current enhanced system of recycling? Please
supply documentary evidence to support your response.

5] The composting was put out for tender twice, the first time the
tender was pulled, why was this?

6] Can I have the exact date that the ‘Blue’ Bins were ordered?
Please back this up with documentary evidence such as purchase
orders or order forms.

7] Can I have the name of the supplier of the ‘Blue Bins’?

8] Can you supply the date that the EMB gave its approval for the
scheme along with copies of the briefing pack, meeting minutes and
any documents which are pertinent to this action.

9] Did the NSRP commission an Independent report into suitable
composting sites in the City of Stoke-on-Trent?

10] If a report was commissioned please supply a copy of the

11] If a report was commissioned was it taken into consideration
before placing the contract with a company from outside of the
area? Please supply evidence

12] Our current system for collecting food waste means that
potentially only 50% is collected. [once fortnightly in brown bin]

That 50% potential success rate will be further affect by the number of households that do not have the 3 bin system. Will this prevent the city achieving the government target of 45% for 2015 and the 50% target for 2020?

These questions are supplementary questions which have come to light after an interview with Jane Forshaw about the enhanced recycling scheme.

Background information on why these questions are being asked can be found here

and here

If the work required to provide answers to these questions will take you over the prescribed limit of £450, please use the context of this request but treat each of the questions, numbered 1 – 12 inclusively, as a separate request.

If one part of this request can be answered before any of the others please respond to that part without further delay, waiting until the whole request has been dealt with is not necessary.

My preferred method of receiving your response is electronically, if all or any part of this request is not able to be responded to by my preferred method, please contact me to arrange alternative delivery methods.

If you need clarification on any of the points in this request or if anything is unclear please do not hesitate to contact me as soon as you require the clarification rather than waiting until the last date that this request is due to be answered by (12 November 2010).

Yours faithfully,

I am pleased to see that Councillors from Stoke-on-Trent’s newest political group have taken the initiative on this issue.

They, like us, want to see a complete, thorough and urgent independent inquiry into the whole system of Waste Management and Enhanced Recycling.

There have already been calls for the District Auditor to launch an investigation into the department and the methods used to inform elected members and the way contracts were awarded.

The issue is as clear as a muddy puddle on a black tarmac pavement.

The following motion will go before the next Full Council
Meeting on the 21st October:

”Stoke-on-Trent City Council expresses its deep concern into allegations regarding our waste management services.
In particular, the allegations that councillors have been misled, reports of consultants altered and circumvention of the City Council Procurement Policy and Tendering Processes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, therefore, shall set up an urgent independent investigation into the carrying out of its Waste Management functions over the last 3 years, in particular:

“¢ The work undertaken by officers
“¢ Members’ Information and Reports
“¢ Procurement

The final report shall be submitted to the full Council meeting following completion of the report, subject to any legal/criminal proceedings that might arise being dealt with separately and according to due process.”

It has been suggested we are in collaboration with third parties over this issue.

I had been contacted by sources inside the council and external of it, to tip me off that there is a suspicion that we are being used to further a HR claim against the City Council by an ex employee.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that we are working with no other individuals in the investigation of this issue and most certainly not any ex employee who may, or may not hold a grudge against the City Council.

We have used other FOI requests alongside information given from a range of sources who have a real concern about the way this whole issue has been handled.

Pits n Pots sole motivation for bringing this into the public domain is that we have real concerns that elected members did not receive the information that would enable them to make a balanced judgement on the proposals for handling the City’s waste.

We are confident that NO elected member, EMB or Overview and Scrutiny had sight of the WRAP Report dated 4/3/08 [ROT019] before the decision was made to adopt the current system of Waste Management and Enhanced Recycling.

Some may say that this is all in the past and not on the present CEO’s watch but we feel strongly that our elected members were kept out of the loop by former executive officers of the council.

We appeal to elected members on all sides of the Chamber to back the calls for an independent inquiry, to leave party politics outside the chamber door, and to do the right thing to ensure the public are aware of the full facts surrounding an issue that has probably cost much, much more than the £1million worth of savings that had been claimed.