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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Human Rights abuser Veolia must not get Brent Council taxpapers' money

Usually well informed Brent Council sources say the the Brent Council Executive on October 14th will be recommended by officers to award the new multi-million Public Realm contract to the controversial French multi-national Veolia.

The contract covers waste collection, recycling, street sweeping, parks maintenance, cemeteries maintenance and grounds maintenance for Brent Housing Partnership estates.

The Bin Veolia in Brent Campaign has called on the Council to exclude Veolia from the lucrative contract on the grounds of its grave misconduct. The allegations relate to Veolia's operations in the occupied territories of Palestine where it helps maintain the infrastructure for illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Bin Veolia in Brent argue that Brent council tax payers' money should not be used to enrich a company involved in the undermining of Palestinian human rights. Brent Council, representing a diverse population and committed to social justice, should ensure that it only awards contracts to ethical companies - just as pension fund investments are subject to an ethical test..

The Bin Veolia campaign's argument was backed by the General Committees of both the Brent Central and Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Parties, many individual Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green party members as well as Brent Trade Union Council and Brent members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition calling for the exclusion of Veolia from the contract. There were speakers supporting exclusion at many of the last round of Brent Connects forums. Their comments were referred to Cllr Roxanne Mashari but the petition was referred to Fiona Ledden, head of legal and procurement and no response has been forthcoming.

Throughout the process Bin Veolia in Brent and Brent Palestine Solidarity Campaign have published their legal advice on the issue. For their part Brent Council officers have been obstructive and despite Freedom of Information requests have refused to publish the  legal advice  they have obtained.  This made it impossible for the campaigns to answer legal points taken on board by the council. It is likely that the council's failure to be transparent and answer genuine questions from residents could be grounds for a judicial review.

An attempt by Liberal Democrat councillors to raise the issue at a full council meeting was ruled out of order on the advice of officers.

A spokesperson for the Bin Veolia in Brent campaign said:
If the sources are correct then Brent councillors on the Executive need to seriously consider rejecting the officers' recommendation. The Council only recently awarded the Freedom of Brent to Nelson Mandela, a man who said he could never be free until the Palestinians are free. Back in the 80s the Labour Brent Council was in the forefront of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and despite officer advice at the time did take a stand against awarding IT contracts to firms operating in South Africa.
Brent Labour Council should stand up for the freedom of Palestinians, not give our money to a company that helps oppress them.
The agenda for the Brent Executive will not be available on the council website until the weekend.

Brent PSC is urging human rights supporters to contact their local councillors regarding the contract. Councillors should be asked to write to Brent Executive members calling for them to reject the officers' recommendation  and NOT award the contract to Veolia.

The email addresses and telephone numbers of councillors can be found HERE

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