Everything IS NOT improving?

Quality of Grass cutting is a disgrace
Quality of Grass cutting is a disgrace

Everything IS NOT improving?

The excellent article in this weeks Chronicle and Echo under the title ‘Grass gripes return again for Enterprise’ gives the impression that the problems residents of Northampton and Daventry have had to put up with have “returned”?

The fact is that the issue has never be sorted out and for the last two years we have constantly been told by the Conservative Leader of the Borough council and the previous Cabinet Member responsible for waste collection and grass cutting that things were improving.

There is no doubt that the Cllr Mike Hallam the new Cabinet Member who now has the responsibility for sorting the mess out is talking the talk but is he walking the walk?

On Monday last week at the Borough Council all party Overview and Scrutiny meeting it was Conservative Councillors in the form of Cllr Phil Larratt and Cllr Tony Ansell who were the most vocal critics of the service.

They both pointed out what most residents already know that grass cutting hasn’t improved and in fact has got worse and that because it has been allowed to get out of control and when the grass is cut it leaves a complete mess with grass cuttings on footpaths.

Grass cuttings left on footpaths is dangerous
Grass cuttings left on footpaths is dangerous

All of which is not only unsightly but also a danger especially when wet to residents.

It was interesting that the sentiments were echoed by Cllr Jamie Lane the Conservative Chairman of the committee.

Labour Councillors , Cllr Winston Strachan and Cllr Lee Mason also talked about the issues they have in their Wards

It was an attack that led Cllr Michael Hallam to admit that the issue hasn’t been resolved and that it was his main priorities.

A somewhat strange comment some may think coming from a Councillor who for the past 18 months has been the Assistant Cabinet Member for Environmental services.

Interestingly when I have raised this issue before and in fact written about it on a number of occasions the Borough Council Conservatives have accused me and others of exaggerating the problem for political advantage.

We now see that even they are having finally to admit that after over two years of dismissing the concerns raised by the residents that the management and monitoring of the contract and contractors has been dismal and the admission shows that the previous Cabinet member and Leader of the Council have failed.

If things have improved how is it that I have reported over 700 cases of fly tipping or missed collections in the past seven months compared with 630 in the whole of last year?

Some improvement!!!!.

Certainly not in Billing, Ecton Brook, Rectory Farm, Bellinge and Blackthorn.

In a recent scrutiny of the Enterprise contract carried out by Daventry District Councillors revealed the failure that residents across both councils have experienced and continue to experience.

The report makes it clear that the Northampton Borough Council and Daventry District Council partnership unit who have the responsibility for managing the contract “has not been effective in monitoring and managing the contract” and that “Enterprise was not forthcoming with their data”.

What is even more revealing is that the report states very clearly that “Performance deductions (financial) have in principle been applied but most are currently subject to dispute resolution procedure”.

Effectively the £250,000 to £400,000 of performance deductions that the Conservatives keep saying have been levied against the company haven’t been applied because of the way the contract was drawn up.

There have apparently been no sanctions against those who drew up the contract in the first place?

What we are now being asked to believe is that now they have a “New Action Plan” the problems will be resolved?

Only time will tell but it is worrying that in response to the comments from councillors Cllr Hallam said “What is important is that we are now bringing everyone responsible together to talk about the issues”

Which brings us back to the Chronicle and Echo article where he says ” We are aware (oh really) there are some parts of the town that are becoming overgrown and have made our contractor Enterprise aware and ‘requested’ that they take immediate action”

Two things immediately spring to mind,

1. Why do the Borough and Daventry Councils have to make a contractor paid for by the taxpayers aware of environmental problems? Shouldn’t they know it and in fact avoid it happening in the first place, and

2. Why is Cllr Hallam only “requesting” that the contractor take immediate action?

I would be interested if anyone else has ever negotiated a contract where the person or company who have been given the contract can only be “requested” to deliver the services paid for.

It isn’t talk people want.

It is the rubbish to be collected, the grass to be cut and the footpaths to be kept clear, clean and safe

The reality is the contract is complicated and so badly drawn up that what we have is a situation that the Contractor and the Councils can interpret it to their own advantage with clearly the contractor currently winning and residents losing.

Northampton and Daventry taxpayers who are paying for such a bad service may well be justified in asking how can a contract be so badly designed and managed that the contractor cannot be held to account?

and they would be right.