MARK Jenkinson has hit out at Cumbria’s two unitary authorities failing to learn the lessons of history after a move by the Labour and Liberal Democrat councils to further privatise waste handling and disposal services.
His comments come amid a controversial deal made by Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council to sell off Cumbria Waste Group (CWG) without debate or public consultation.
In the last posted accounts, CWG held £36m of assets, most of which would have belonged to the former county council.
The MP has recently raised concerns about the sale in a letter to the Chief Executives of each council. The councils have also been attacked by trade unions.
It was reported last week that Cumbria Waste Group had been sold off to private equity company Waterland – though it remains unclear whether the company has become a majority shareholder or has bought CWG outright.
Mark said: “The present leader of Cumberland Council was deputy leader of Allerdale’s Labour executive back in 2019 when #BinChaos engulfed the borough – only to be repeated again under his leadership of the new council in 2023.
“Two of the Executive members of Cumberland served on the top table at Allerdale making the decisions that led to the chaos – and it seems they have short memories about the risks of privatising bin services.
“Cast your mind back to 2019 when Allerdale’s then Labour administration renewed their contract with FCC. The Labour executive had been looking for savings and additional capacity as part of efforts to improve the service.
“However, a lack of oversight by the relevant senior members caused a number of problems which resulted in thousands of bins going uncollected every week.
“The new Conservative administration, who took control after Labour lost the election on the back of deteriorating services, had to fight to set the service back on track after the wheels had well and truly come off Labour’s so-called ‘gold-plated bin service’.
“A resolution came by bringing the service back in house through Allerdale Waste Services, ending decades of Labour privatisation.
“But the problems have not been confined to waste – Cumbria County Council, having had Labour and Liberal Democrats round the top table, left a legacy of failed privatisation and PFI schemes.
“Again, many of those in control then, hold the reins now in both Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness. They’re the same players playing the same dangerous game. Over time they ceded control of waste handling and 4400 miles of roads across the county.
“The Amey roads contract returned to council control, but only after an expensive failed legal battle that saw council-taxpayers cough up £21m. 100 miles of Cumberland’s roads still sit in a 30-year PFI deal which relinquished council control over pothole and surface repairs, with nearly £250m still to pay over the remaining 15 years.
“Those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat it – and I am anxious that the Leaders of both councils are risking the very same outcome. “