By Local Democracy Reporter: Christine Sexton
A BIN strike which cost Thurrock Council £109,000 was politically-motivated, a Conservative councillor claims.
The five-week strike, which began in April, was sparked by changes to terms and conditions and saw residents having to dispose of their own waste.
The dispute ended in May but at a full council meeting on Wednesday, Andrew Jefferies, Conservative councillor for South Ockendon, revealed the cost after being questioned by Jane Pothecary, Labour councillor for Grays Riverside.
He said: “The total cost for waste collection was approximately £109,000. This included the cost of all seven bin sites, hiring of agency staff, private contractors and the additional collections we put on.”
Ms Pothecary said the changes had been a cost cutting exercise by the Tory administration.
She said: “That’s a lot of money, could have paid for a lot of services. An FOI published on July 1 suggests controversial changes to pay and conditions would have saved around £800,000.
“Why in that case did the council claim repeatedly during the strike period that it wasnt a cost saving measure and would not have delivered savings?”
She added: “Residents had to spend five weeks struggling to push their rubbish around the borough and you are still trying to catch up and get back to normal and other services are still trying to recover. Is it any wonder the residents and staff are losing faith in this administrations ability to deliver a functioning refuse service.”
Mr Jefferies replied: “The changes to pay and conditions and the negotiations that took place were instigated by this group and what we wanted was to see some changes in the working practices but one thing we were adamant about was there would be no loss of pay for any of our staff.
“We would not come out of negotiation the other side with a loss of pay. It wasn’t a cost cutting measure it was about bringing working practises up to date to provide the best service for the residents of Thurrock.”
He added: “As for the £109,000 spent on bin strikes, we wouldn’t have had to spend that money if the Thurrock Labour party didn’t support a politically-motivated strike to try and get votes.
“It failed. Perhaps the group opposite might like to look at their policies towards these things. Not supporting a politically motivated strike wouldn’t have cost the council money.”