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Our response to plastic recycling sack plans

August 27, 2020 9:18 AM
By Clive Jones and Sarah Kerr

The Liberal Democrat group on Wokingham Borough Council are angry that the decision of investing in polypropylene recycling sacks has been upheld despite the obvious lack of due diligence and disregard for good financial management. Action on tackling wet waste has been unnecessarily delayed due to the poor financial management of taxpayers money by this Conservative administration. The delay of not having provided a full business case in July when funding was approved has cost taxpayers £100k according to estimates by the Conservative administration.

Cllr Clive Jones, Deputy Leader for the Liberal Democrats said "we do not dispute that there is a need to tackle the wet waste issue. We are disappointed that large amounts of resident's money has been approved for spending without a business case. This is not how any business would manage it's finances, let alone a local authority who is responsible for public money. It's a disgrace!" He went on to add, "the Conservatives have tried to claim that they were only ringfencing the money should the business case be approved in September, but they actually approved the money without the necessary information in front of them."

Cllr Jones, along with 4 other members of the Liberal Democrat party, 'called-in' the Executive decision to borrow and spend £288k on what was being called hessian sacks (although they are actually plastic), replacing the black box recycling system. No business case was produced for this spending prior to financial approval, there was no public consultation, no scrutiny, and a complete lack of transparency.

A cross-party committee met virtually on Wednesday evening to decide whether the Executive's decision was to be upheld, or if it should be referred back to them to consider more carefully before spending such large amounts of public money.

Cllr Sarah Kerr, Lead member for the Liberal Democrats on this committee stated that "it is very disappointing that the Conservatives on the committee opted to rubber stamp their colleagues' poor decision-making. But it is not a surprise. The council issued a press release announcing the sacks were coming several days before the committee had even met, so it appears the Conservatives had decided in advance that they would ignore what happened at the call-in. During the meeting it transpired that the report that was published after the money was approved was full of holes. It's impossible for us to say whether these sacks are the right solution for the problem or not. This is no way to run a local authority." She added that "this also calls into question the impartiality of what is supposed to be an impartial and fully participatory committee. What is also concerning is that several Conservative members of the Conservative voted on this decision without asking any questions or making a single comment. The Conservatives on the committee voted along party lines rather than in the best interests of the residents they serve."

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council added that "this demonstrates the Conservative administration are reckless when it comes to financial management. The Conservatives on the overview and scrutiny committee actually voted against providing business cases for their financial decisions which goes against prudent financial management. This is reckless! As a local authority we are under severe financial pressure, but the Conservatives are so slack when it comes to spending our money and showed no regard for the impacts this has on residents."

The decision to invest public money in plastic recycling sacks has been given the green light and will be rolled out later this year despite the business case not having been produced yet.