Labour Brent Council's Executive last night approved the awarding of
the £142.3m Public Realm contract to Veolia despite representations
calling for the company to be removed from the procurement process
because if its alleged grave misconduct in servicing illegal Israel
settlements in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.
Executive was addressed by Dan Judelson of Brent Jews for Justice for
Palestinians, Cllr Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on
the council, and Martin Francis, Chair of Brent and Harrow PSC..
Executive members argued, to
varying degrees, that they cared about human rights and the plight of
the Palestinians, but that they had no option, for legal reasons and to
get the best deal for Brent council tax payers, to award the contract to
Veolia. Cllr Jim Moher, rolled out on these occasions as the
Executive's blunderbus, accused Martin Francis and Paul Lorber of attempting to
wreck the contract with an eye on gaining electoral advantage next year.
He said that people like you, trying to occupy the high moral ground,
may be concerned about human rights but the man in the street cared
about his bins being emptied.
Muhammed Butt summing up said there was no
greater advocate than him of the Palestinian cause but that the Council
had to act legally and could not risk Veolia taking legal action
against them for not following procedures. He added that faced with huge
cuts in central government funding the savings the new contract
involved was the most important issue.
answering a challenge about lack of transparency in not informing the
campaign and the public of the legal advice she had received regarding
Bin Veolia in Brent's allegation said that she was constrained because
it would be irresponsible to share legal advice with the public as it
was privileged. It had been shared with members of the Executive behind
closed doors. If the advice had been made public it could have been used
by other parties in a Judicial Review. She said that she had received
clear legal advice that Veolia UK was a separate company from that
operating in Israel/Palestine and that in her communications with other
local authorities she could find no case of Veolia being excluded from a
This is the speech Martin Francis made to the Executive:
When Muhammed Butt took over from Ann John as council
leader he recognised, in the light of the library closures issue, the need to
communicate with residents better and engage with them –
be a ‘listening council’
his disagreement with Gareth Daniel
(former Chief Executive) he recognised the need to rebalance the power
relationship between officers and elected members
he wanted to move from
public realm contract issue leads us to ask:
what happened to these
activities in the occupied territories of Israel are a moral and human rights
issue, as well as a ‘political one’ just as British companies’ collusion with
the Apartheid regime in South Africa was for the Brent Labour administration in
But from the beginning we were handed over to officers to
discuss the issue – not elected members.
These officers were about as
transparent as a lump of lead.
gave officers detailed legal evidence on Veolia’s grave misconduct in the
occupied territories – the procurement panel decided there were no grounds for
exclusion of Veolia but gave no reasons why or how they had reached that
and our human rights lawyer met Fiona Ledden (Head of Procurement) to ask what
legal advice they had received so that we could respond – they refused to tell
us what the advice was and its source. We were put in the Kafkaesque situation
of attempting to respond to evidence we couldn’t see. Our lawyer warned Fiona
Ledden that this refusal could be used to press for a judicial review.
asked if our allegations had been put to Veolia, they said no.
Surely any fair process would
do that and should have in terms of protecting the council’s reputation.
When Veolia did write to the council, apparently of their
own volition, they claimed to have sold the Tovlan landfill site. We submitted
evidence that this was untrue. No
reaction from officers to being deliberately misled by a bidder.
Enterprise asked for extra time to put in their final bid they were refused.
The council’s reason for refusal of extra time are almost the same, and as
unenlightening, as the refusal to exercise their discretion to exclude Veolia –
‘because that’s what we have
no comeback for Veolia for giving misleading information to the council but
instead officers’ action leaving Veolia as the only bidder.
the officers refused to engage with us, what about the elected members of the
petition with more than 2,000 signatures was presented to the executive. There
was no response from the Executive member leading on the environment. It was
referred to Fiona Ledden, head of procurement for consideration. The same Fiona Ledden who had been
request to Cllr butt and Fiona Ledden for the outcome of that consideration was
requested some time ago but only answered on Thursday. This merely said the
council did not intent to revisit the decision not to exclude Veolia made on
in other words ‘we
are ignoring your petition’
supporters made presentations on the issue to various Brent Connects forums.
The notes say their comments would be referred to Cllr Roxanne Mashari as lead
member for environment. They have heard
Lindsay, Secretary of Brent and Harrow PSC has received no response to a
request sent to Cllr Mashari in June, to meet with her and Brent members of
Jews for Justice for Palestinians regarding the contract.
The officers’ report you are considering this evening
makes absolutely no reference to any of these representations. If we had not
made them public and written to councillors you will have had no idea that this
is a controversial issue.
GCs of both Hampstead and Kilburn and Brent Central Labour parties, Brent TUC
and Brent members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians have supported our
case. We have been supported by several
of the candidates for the Brent Central parliamentary nomination. Brent Lib
Dems were ruled out of order when they tried to put a question about Veolia at
know that some members of the Executive have misgivings on the issue. Cllr
Mashari herself, reporting on a visit to Israel/Palestine with the Young
Fabians, paid for by BICOM (set up to ‘create a more supportive environment for
Israel in Britain) said that the one issue she was repeatedly told should be addressed
to bring peace was that of illegal Israeli settlements.
from all of the above can the council truly save that they are sure of ‘best
value’ for Brent residents in a process that led, at the final hurdle, to
Veolia having no competitor for the Executive to consider.
In Q1 of 2013-14 there was a failure to reach
targets for reduction in residual waste and increased recycling at a cost of
£226,000 with Veolia the current contractor.
We suggest the Executive:
the current contract for a year
a new procurement process with robust ethical conditions attached
separating the parks/ground maintenance services from that contract to allow
waste specialist companies to bid.
supporting an in-house bid for the parks/grounds maintenance contract