A HEATED exchange at Ealing Council over rubbish and recycling collections saw a cabinet member fend off calls for his resignation.
The council held a special meeting at the town hall on Tuesday (May 8), where councillors exchanged barbed comments, complete with heckling from the public gallery.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, leader for transport and the environment, came under a barrage of criticism from the opposition over the recent fiasco over rubbish and recycling collections, carried out by new waste contractor Enterprise.
Residents endured weeks of misery and piles of rotting garbage as collections were missed and recyclables which had been carefully separated were thrown together in the back of a single vehicle.
Mayor of Ealing John Gallagher, who chaired proceedings, had to repeatedly bring the meeting to order as tensions reached boiling point.
The opposition put forward a motion demanding ‘the return of a first class waste and collection service’, adding the people of the borough have ‘no confidence in this administration’s and the portfolio holder for environment and transport’s ability to deliver it.'
Some of the strongest comments came from Conservative leader David Millican, who blasted what he claimed was the “incompetence, ineptitude and ego of the portfolio holder and the leader.”
Addressing Mr Mahfouz directly, Mr Millican said: “It’s scandalous and it’s shocking and it shows you are not fit for the job.”
Liberal Democrat leader Gary Malcom used the meeting to present a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures, calling for a full and public review as to how the rubbish collection crisis happened.
But when Mr Mahfouz addressed the meeting, he said that he understood people have been feeling angry, disappointed and frustrated: “To all residents affected I reiterate our unreserved apology.”
He said that the council have had regular meetings with Enterprise in recent weeks as collection rates have improved, and he continues to receive daily updates.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Mahfouz said: “If you look at my record over the last two years and what I’ve achieved, Ealing Council has achieved the highest ever rates for recycling, getting rid of graffiti and street cleaning.”
The motion put forward at the meeting by the opposition was amended by Labour and passed by council, to read that it demanded a 'first class waste and collection service' and calling on Mr Mahfouz and council staff to do 'everything possible' to make that happen.
Enterprise were approached but did not provide a comment before the Gazette went to press.