Letter to Brent councillors from Martin Francis, Chair of Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
On October 14th the Brent Executive will be deciding whether to accept an officers’ recommendation to award the Public Realm Contract (waste collection, recycling, street sweeping, fly tipping, parks maintenance, grounds maintenance for BHP, burials, gritting) to Veolia. http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/documents/s19639/en-public-realm.pdf
I am writing to you to set out the reasons why I think you should use your influence to persuade the Brent Executive NOT to award the contract to Veolia.
Veolia was the only one of the final three bidders left after one company withdrew because of internal reorganisation and resource issues (SERCO) and another (ENTERPRISE) after officers refused them extra time to prepare their bid.
It is clearly legitimate to ask if ‘Best Value’ has been obtained when such a large contract is awarded with no competitive bid to evaluate it against. It is also legitimate to ask why Enterprise was not granted more time. (Enterprise has now been taken over by Amey)
Although Veolia promise improved performance they have failed to meet recent recycling and residual waste targets costing the Council £226,000. http://www.wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/brent-recycling-and-library-visit-rates.html
VEOLIA AND GRAVE MISCONDUCT
Brent and Harrow Palestine Campaign and Bin Veolia in Brent have called for Brent Council to exclude Veolia from the contract because of its activities in the Occupied Territory of Palestine which provide infrastructure supporting the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
The campaign write to the panel giving detailed information on the background to Veolia’s activities and legal opinion on the case for exclusion. We asked to meet with the panel to present our concerns and answer any questions but were refused. The West London Waste Authority had granted such a meeting during their procurement process. That meeting took place in a cooperative and amicable atmosphere.
The Brent panel decided that there were no grounds for excluding Veolia but would not give their reasons. Muhammed Butt arranged for a group of campaigners and our legal representative to meet with Fiona Ledden (Head of Legal and Procurement) about the issues we had raised. She listened but would not elaborate on the reasons for the panel’s decision. Our legal representative, Daniel Machover, responded that this left us trying to address issues that the Council would not reveal. We were left with trying to guess what their legal advice had been. He pointed out that this might leave the Council vulnerable to a Judicial Review.
Fiona Ledden said that she was determined that the procurement decision would be made on legal grounds and not political grounds.
Further correspondence and Freedom of Information requests failed to elicit any information on the content of the Council’s legal advice, although ours had always been made public.
We did establish that Veolia had never been questioned by the panel, or asked to provide additional information, on the evidence that we had presented about their grave misconduct.
PUTTING SUCH EVIDENCE TO THE BIDDER AND SEEKING THEIR RESPONSE WOULD SEEM TO BE ESSENTIAL IN A ROBUST PROCUREMENT PROCESS AND IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE COUNCIL’S REPUTATION.
Despite not questioning Veolia, eventually the Council received an unsolicited letter, apparently out of the blue, from Veolia attempting to refute claims made against them.
We were able to provide evidence that Veolia’s letter was misleading and inaccurate but again this made no impact on the panel. Our requests for details of the further legal opinion received by the Council was again refused.
Our campaign has been supported in motions passed by the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party General Committee, the Brent Central Labour Party General Committee, Brent Trade Union Council and by Brent members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
We presented a petition with more than 2,000 signatures to the August 19th Executive. Rather than this being addressed by the lead member for the environment Cllr Mashari Roxanne, it was referred to Fiona Ledden, head of procurement, the officer who had been refusing us information.
We have received no response from either Muhammed Butt or Fiona Ledden to our request for the result of that referral. It appears that the petition has been put on the back burner.
I do not think that any Brent councillor can claim that the above process and officer’s response was open and transparent. Indeed it appears that residents’ legitimate concerns have been ignored and dismissed.
On all of the above grounds we ask that you urge the members of the Brent Executive to vote against the officers’ recommendation.
Chair, Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity Campaign