Ealing Council doesn’t listen to its residents and is too busy focusing on “pet projects” and national issues rather than helping people with the things that matter to them, the borough's Conservative leader has claimed.
Speaking ahead of the May 3 local elections in which 69 Ealing seats are up for grabs across 23 wards, Conservative group leader and candidate for Hanger Hill ward, Greg Stafford, said his party was campaigning hard and focusing on local issues which he said the council “doesn’t care about” such as rubbish collection, fly-tipping and the state of the roads.
In reply, Labour group leader and candidate for Greenford Broadway ward, Julian Bell, makes no bones about the difficult financial position the council faces along with all local authorities across the country, but said he hoped people would recognise it has done the best it can in difficult circumstances.
Mr Stafford's comments are part of his party's bid to increase their number of seats on the council from 12, in the face of Labour domination in the borough since the 2010 elections.
He said: “People don’t believe the council is listening to them in terms of their concerns on the issues that matter to them. Trying to deal with a human being at the council is next to impossible, whether it be about planning permission, car parking or rubbish collection. The customer service element has just nosedived and residents notice that."
Mr Stafford claimed the fortnightly waste collection service introduced in 2015 had led to a huge increase in fly-tipping.
He said: "One third of streets just do not get swept and fly-tipping went up 200% over the last term. The council has forgotten who it is supposed to serve.”
Mr Stafford also pointed to the council’s recent decision to terminate its contract with Amey, with a view to bringing the waste, recycling and street cleaning service in-house or run it under a council-controlled firm.
He said this was likely to be beset by expensive overheads to pay for new staff, systems and vehicles which would outstrip any saving the the council could make.
“Residents will want a service that does what it says on the tin and is the most cost effective possible," Mr Stafford added, claiming his party would make this happen if it won power.
'Luxury of opposition'
Hitting back at Mr Stafford's comments on street cleaning, Mr Bell said: "One of the top local Labour priorities is to keep our streets and borough clean and we will do this by cracking down even harder on fly-tipping and littering, increasing fines and bringing our bin collection and street cleaning teams back under council control.
"The local Tories, from the luxury of opposition, are making uncosted promises while their national government is slashing a further £57m from Ealing Council’s funding in the next few years.”
Mr Stafford also gave Labour a bashing on its housing record, saying the council had failed to meet the need for its affordable housing target of 50% and was “in thrall” to developers that want to build homes to profit without also ensuring the necessary improvements to infrastructure.
Tory government cuts mean the council loses its revenue support grant completely by 2020 and it only receives some 50% of business rates in recompense.
Mr Bell added: “We’re never complacent. We don’t take people’s votes for granted and we’re campaigning really hard. I hope people will recognise that in a difficult environment we have done a good job and still deliver good services."
He said the decision to terminate the Amey waste and recycling contract was made to “stabilise” the service in the short term and that the council would make a “pragmatic” decision on whether or not to bring it in-house.
Mr Bell also said waste and recycling services were working well under Amey but admitted the firm could not make it pay.
He blamed government cuts and demands on children's and adult social services for the local authority's recent decision to put council tax up by the maximum allowed amount of 5.99%. Even then he said this would only raise £7.2m of the £29m the council needs to pump into the service this year.
Because of the cuts, Mr Bell also said the council was only able to balance its budget by making “difficult decisions across the board", and by using reserves which he said was “not sustainable”.
“We have to make choices about lesser evils because we’ve cut to the point where there are only difficult cuts left to make,” he added.
Mr Bell also pointed to key successes under Labour, like the Brighter Futures scheme which sees multidisciplinary care teams addressing people’s needs in the community, so that Ealing is bucking the national trend by reducing the numbers of children coming into council care.
He is proud of the borough’s record of taking in and caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeker children and helping them move on to employment and higher education, plus the work of the Horizons Centre which offers young people in care and those who have recently left care a 'safe space' where they can share experiences and get help and advice in order to plan and prepare for employment.
Mr Bell vowed his party would continue its much publicised campaign to protect A&E and other services at Ealing Hospital and continue to build affordable housing as Crossrail begins to increasingly price people out of the borough.
He pointed to achievements like spending £23m to buy up homes that can be used as temporary accommodation, regenerating existing housing estates and using innovative techniques to create homes out of shipping containers in Hanwell and South Acton.
Other parties with candidates standing for election in the London Borough of Ealing are the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, UK Independence Party, Polska Duma (Polish Pride), Renew, Labour and Co-operative Party and British National Party. There are also independent candidates. Full details can be found online.
If you are unable to vote in person at your local polling station on election day, you can apply for a postal or proxy vote.
The deadline to apply for a postal vote, or to amend or cancel an existing postal or proxy vote, is 5pm on Wednesday April 18. The deadline to apply for a new proxy vote, where a voter nominates a registered eligible person to cast a vote on their behalf, is 5pm on Wednesday April 25.
Details of your polling station, including a map, will be on your polling card. Alternatively, you can search for your local polling station on the council's website.
To check if you are registered to vote you can contact Electoral Services on 020 8825 7777 or email email@example.com.
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