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Once a week? Tories want government to step in and demand more bin collections

Can Tories make a breakthrough in Camden?

07 October, 2021 — By Richard Osley in Manchester

Conservatives in Camden enjoying the conference in Manchester

CONSERVATIVES from Camden want national colleagues to specify that bins must be collected on a weekly basis – as they once again put the issue at the front of their Town Hall election campaign.

Activists in Manchester said they were confident that the government’s “levelling up” policies could break through in London, insisting that residents should not think the measures were aimed only at so-called “red wall” seats in the Midlands and the North where Labour surrendered ground to the Tories at the last general election.

Conversely for local members, they support a government with a commanding lead at Westminster but a local campaign team which is regularly faced with a mountain to break down Labour’s grip on Camden.

The opposition group was reduced to seven councillors at the last all-ward elections in 2018 and, as the borough heads towards a new set of polls, it is eager to avoid a repeat of the “one-party state” scenario which has played out in neighbouring Islington and where nearly every seat is Labour red.

The promise of weekly bin collections will still be a key manifesto pledge.

Oliver Cooper, leader of Camden’s Conservative opposition, said:  “What I think can be great is talking to ministers about what the Environment Bill, which is passing through the House of Lords right now, will mean for local councils.

“One of those is the sexily named Section 45aze, paragraph 2b guidance… that will mean the government can specify how often people’s bins should be collected.

“I hope they will specify in that guidance they will be collected every week and therefore it puts the onus on councils to explain why they are denying that basic service to residents. In Westminster,z and Kensington and Chelsea, bins are collected for every single resident at least twice a week and there’s no reason why Camden can’t do the same.”

He said the borough had the worst levels of fly-tipping in the country and “filthy” streets; his party has called for a review of the waste contract with operators Veolia but he said he did not support bringing the service back in-house.

Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told her party’s conference last week that she was backing a “new wave of insourcing”.

Cllr Cooper said that Camden Council needed to tap into “levelling up” funds and grants but had so far refused to apply for all the money that was available, blaming “party partisanship”.

Camden Conservatives Oliver Cooper and Henry Newman

Away from the local battles ahead, however, there was concern among some delegates, members and MPs here about how the removal of the £20 uplift to  Universal Credit would be received – the money had been put into the benefits system as recognition of the hard times people faced with Covid.

By the time of the next council elections, residents – voters – could be juggling with the loss of that £20, the end of furlough job support, rent arrears demands and increased fuel bills.

In fringe meetings which received less airtime, MPs tentatively raised concerns that there was a risk that some of the measures may look unfair – even if they themselves did not think they were.

And there were calls for more “imagination” when it came to the personal debts that people were facing.

At one session organised by Citizens Advice Bureau on Tuesday, Nigel Mills, an MP in Derbyshire, suggested  the idea that tax-payers should help pay some of the private rental market arrears that people were facing after a no-evictions rule was lifted.

“I think we’ll find a very large number of people who were just about able to get by before the pandemic, were then not able to get by and ended up with rent arrears to their landlord,” he said.

“If you evict someone and they end up homeless and falling on the council to home them, it costs an absolute fortune.

“You end up creating a horrible spiral of expenditure to the tax-payer. With a bit of creative thought we could find a solution where the landlord has to write off a third, the tenant has to be a pay a third over a period of time and the tax payer pick ups up some of these arrears.”

He suggested this would be a cheaper way of meeting the problem, but  it was not an idea getting too much coverage on the main stage.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Boris Johnson gave his speech without mentioning Universal Credit or rent arrears, instead insisting he would bring down the cost of living by “fixing the broken housing market” and making transport links better.

“Housing in the right place at an affordable price will add massively not just to your general joie de vivre but to your productivity and that is how we solve the national productivity puzzle,” the prime minister said.

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