Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sean Parker-Perry the rubbish rebel

Here's us thinking that Longdendale Councillor Sean Parker-Perry's career is virtually over and he sets himself firmly on the political centre stage in Tameside - at least for now. Not only that, but his 'green credentials' (such as they exist) are again at the centre of it all.

What are we talking about? Well Sean's decided to come over all rebellious regarding the recent conversion of Tameside MBC towards fortnightly bin collections. But as is usually the case with these things, you have to read between the lines. 

The Tameside Advertiser article makes it clear that Sean favours a weekly collection, but smaller bins which it says will 'force people to divide rubbish'. The current plan sees Tameside residents receiving a number of containers for different types of rubbish. Also, Sean says that recycling facilities in various parts of Tameside have disappeared.

And Sean seems to have hit a nerve - in the Reporter/Chronicle, there's a whole page devoted to the issue, with letters of support for Sean's stance. Or is there? The praise seems to have come from those who think the collections should stay weekly, rather than Sean's idea of smaller bins 'forcing' people to recycle. 

It might be easier if we get out own views on the subject out of the way first before we move onto the implications of this kerfuffle. 

Firstly, there's the issue of Public Services. The move to a less frequent collection is clearly an attack on a vital Public Service. There has been an increasing tendency over the past couple of years for Local Authorities to contract out their waste management services to private companies, with all the usual and predictable results, both for the public and employees in the public sector. Sean doesn't mention this, so presumably he's in favour of it. The idea that this is a clash of political ideologies is absurd - all the political parties agree with the continued privatisation of Public Services. 

Secondly, in this 'debate' there is a complete absence of analysis, both at the local and national level. Who is talking about the commodification of waste for example? 4 multinational corporations - whose turnover number in the billions of pounds - control three quarters of all refuse collection contracts (many of which are to last for 25 years). Rubbish is very big business. And whilst the contracts keep political responsibility for waste management with Local Authorities, they do not allow them to keep any direct operational control. That is determined by only multinational corporations in response to national regulations. 

Local Authorities simply have no power, and on a local level neither the Tories, Liberal Democrats or Labour can do anything about it. And last time I looked, none of them were arguing for returning waste management services to Local Authority control.

And this brings us on to you and I, and our 'responsibility' for recycling and waste management. We are continually told that 'we have to take more responsibility' for 'our' waste. That this is an individual problem, even a moral problem (i.e. it is we that are 'lazy' or 'wasteful'). But all of that misses the point completely and is in fact a smokescreen for what it actually happening. The fact of the matter is that 'we' have no control  - not only do we not produce the waste (excessive packaging, junk mail etc etc) but also it is actually the Local Authorities that have swallowed the government (Tory and then Labour) line on the commodification of waste and awarded lucrative and long-term contracts to private companies that can do exactly as they please.

Waste management policy wants to make rubbish into a profitable commodity. This is why the onus for sorting waste is being put onto us, and the collections are happening less frequently - so that capitalist enterprises don't have to employ as many workers to sort the rubbish and collect it on a regular basis. Which is in order for them to widen their profit margins. It has nothing to do with us becoming 'greener' or becoming more 'environmentally aware'. 

We don't see Sean Parker-Perry, or anyone else for that matter, talking about any of that.

So what is this argument really about? Roy Oldham's career is clearly in it's twilight months now. This could also be true of Sean - his credibility in the local Labour Party has nose dived in the past 12 months, what with his sacking from James Purnell's team, and the foundering of his relationship with the daughter of one of Tameside's most powerful political figures. It's do or die, and what better way to revive his fortunes - with a slanging match in the press with the leader of the Council over an issue neither of them have control over.

What a load of rubbish...

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