- Dramatic Drop in Recycling Rate Puts WHBC Bottom of Herts League Table
- Tory-run Council Sending 15% More to Landfill
With reporting now complete on the first year since Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council rolled out a £35 charge for garden waste collection, the borough's overall recycling rate has plunged from 53% in 2016/17 to 43.4% for 2017/18. This sharp decline puts Welwyn Hatfield near the bottom of all Hertfordshire local Councils. At the top of the Herts league table is Liberal Democrat-controlled Three Rivers District Council, which achieved a recycling rate of 62.4%.
"These results are alarming and disappointing, though not unexpected," said Barbara Gibson, County Councillor for Haldens Division and Opposition Spokesperson for Community Safety and Waste Management. "At the time of the proposed change, hundreds of people voiced concerns about the environmental impact, but the Conservatives voted unanimously to ignore those concerns, and rushed through the change without proper consultation and planning.
"As a result, this Council sent 15% more residual waste to landfill in the past year, an increase of nearly 3000 tonnes overall, and an average of 58 kg per household. This is simply unacceptable."
Liberal Democrats are calling for the Council to use proceeds of the brown bin charges to implement a free food waste collection for all residents as soon as is feasible.
Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on the Council, said "The brown bin charge was always badly managed, and people were initially angry about the cost. But now they are most concerned about the environmental impact. The Conservatives have taken us backwards. That's just rubbish!"
The offer of a one month refund to rail season ticket-holders misses thousands of regular travellers who pay for their tickets in other ways, says LibDem councillor and rail campaigner Malcolm Cowan.
"The statement by Govia that only season-ticket-holders travel regularly is nonsense", he says.
- They launched the carnet ticket for those who travel 3 or 4 times a week - have they forgotten them?.
- Other travellers have disabled or other railcards, so buy daily tickets as these work out cheaper than a season.
- Anyone who travels off-peak will buy daily tickets rather than a season ticket
"They have all had the same chaos as season-ticket holders but are excluded from the offer; it is petty and small-minded. Govia have gone for the easy headline but left thousands of travellers behind just as their trains have", he said. "The scheme needs to be extended properly."
"The new so-called improved interim train timetable, set to start on 15 July is no better than the current one that is failing so badly" says LibDem councillor and rail champion Malcolm Cowan.
"The current 2 ½ hour gap in trains from Kings Cross in the morning - 0921 followed eventually by the 1151 is an insult. There is also a 90 minute gap in the evening, and a 90 minute gap going into London just after lunch. Yet again, none of the faster Govia trains that rush through are being called in to stop, when there must clearly be spare track capacity given the number of trains not running.
"On Saturdays, it is a 50% service all day, including on the Moorgate line where there are no new trains and no driver training needed. We are becoming a Cinderella service despite the sky high fares. Maybe we should have a 50% fares cut.
"And all this assumes Govia can actually do what they promise - does anyone have confidence in that? After all, the spring edition of their magazine Connections has the banner headline 'The Golden Age starts in May'. Candidate for quote of the year?"
That is the question many local rail users are asking, after a motion of No Confidence in Transport Minister Chris Grayling was defeated with not a single Conservative MP breaking ranks in the vote, despite many of them expressing their extreme concern in the debate. And Grant did not speak at all in the debate unlike MPs for Stevenage, for Hitchin and for North-East Herts, the areas sharing our pain.
Grant has made much of his dissatisfaction with the failure of rail services since the failed new timetable, but has concentred his fire on operator Govia and infrastructure owner Network Rail. In fact, most observers have concluded it is the Department for Transport, headed by under-fire minister Chris Grayling who seems to be at the heart of the problems.
Firstly, Grayling was the one who reduced the number of timetable planners at Network Rail, just as they were having to organise and approve the new timetable with its thousands of changes. And secondly, he refused to allow the changeover to be put back, despite requests from rail insiders, when it was obvious it could not be delivered in time.
"Grayling's mucky paws are all over this; he is the one who made it impossible for the changes to work, and then blames everyone else. I would have hoped Grant would have realised this and made him accountable" said local rail user champion Malcolm Cowan.
"But rather than fighting for his beleaguered constituents , Grant meekly toed the party line and closed ranks in support of a failing party colleague."
It has been announced that Charles Horton, head of Govia, has resigned.
Malcolm Cowan, Liberal Democrat councillor, says "This is not before time. He has presided over chaos on Southern, through the attempt to force in Driver-Only Operation, and now brought chaos to our line and Thameslink through the botched timetable change, in which Govia were major culprits. Great Northern regularly features as bottom or close to bottom of all the rail franchises for performance while charging sky-high fares. And all the time, it has been someone else's fault, like when he blamed delays and cancellations on Great Northern, on work at London Bridge even though our trains do not go anywhere near there. The timetable changes have been majorly oversold when for many of us they represent a worsening, even if they were actually to run.
He has been grossly overpaid at half a million pounds a year while the hard-pressed staff who are on the front line of passenger anger get a fraction of that. I suspect his legacy will be that he took the railway backwards when it was supposed to be going forwards."
Train cancellations affecting Welwyn Hatfield have continued, with just a 50% service over the weekend of 2nd/3rd June and multiple cancellations on weekdays.
However, a joint letter from Network Rail, Govia and Northern has laid wide open that the chaos was known to be coming. Part of their statement says:
"To accommodate the extra services being introduced, six out of 10 services nationwide had to be retimed. The time of all GTR and most Northern services had to be changed. All of these new journeys needed to be individually approved by Network Rail to ensure the national rail network runs safely and smoothly.
As a result of the sheer number of changes required and the late running of some engineering improvements, the process took longer than anticipated, approvals for service changes were delayed and some timetable requests were changed. This meant that train companies had much less time to prepare for the new timetable meaning specialist training required could not be completed in time for drivers to learn all the new routes, or operate different trains for operators to address all the logistical challenges.
Malcolm Cowan asks: "Why, if everyone in the rail industry knew there would be chaos, from both the lack of approval for the new trains timings and the lack of trained drivers, did no-one bother to tell the passengers? Govia continued to shout about how wonderful it would be when they knew failure was coming down the track with the speed of an Inter-City, but the signals to those who pay and get a lousy service was set to green when they should have been red. For this alone, Govia should lose their contract. The whinging about lack of drivers has been a constant noise form Govia from the day they took over, but they still haven't got their plans working."
Serco's failure to provide a proper bin emptying service is shown up by the appalling record at flats in Duncan Close WGC - 34 failures in less than 30 months.
"That's 12 flats not getting a proper service" says local LibDem councillor Malcolm Cowan, who has often been asked to intervene. "To add insult to injury, the flat dwellers had to pay to get recycling bins supplied, unlike people who live in houses. Quite why the council makes it so hard by discriminating against flat-dwellers is beyond me" he adds.
"Then, when I ask the council why the bins keep getting missed, they say it is the first time - they have no record of previous failures. I am totally disgusted. They can't improve if they don't know that they have failed in the past."
Resident John Fogarty (pictured with Malcolm) who organised for the flats to get recycling bins, and regularly chases the council says "I think we are due a refund - we paid to get the bins and we pay for them to be emptied but the council does not carry out its side of the bargain. No-one learns, no-one supervises. It is a disgrace".