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Labour needs to come clean over toxic PFIs

I read with interest the letter from the Labour Council to Government ministers stating that massive waste company Veolia, which holds the local contract for recycling, has rejected calls to renegotiate the waste service to take more plastics.

Given Veolia has a giant 25-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal, which costs council taxpayers of our city £1bn over the course of the contract, it is hardly a surprise they are in no rush to adapt to meet the city’s recycling needs.

Labour now needs to come clean about how toxic these PFI deals are, something the party has been unwilling to tell the public. Presumably it has been reluctant to do this because the waste deal was struck under Labour leadership of the council and, like so many PFI deals, under the last Labour Government. The reality is that, through the complex arrangements of PFI, private companies have been able to hold councils to ransom.

The letter suggests we are stuck with current recycling issues because Veolia will not take products that lack an end market for recycling. But other local recycling companies in the city, and indeed other councils, collect a greater range of materials than are covered through the Veolia contract. Sheffield Council has recently renegotiated its waste PFI deal, saving council taxpayers thousands in the process.

We cannot wait for the Conservative Government to act when its woeful 25-year long environment plan will hardly make a dent in our waste recycling. The Labour Council is in a position to renegotiate existing contracts so they represent better value for the taxpayer, and respond to local needs and environmental concerns. It is high time they did – not least because, at a time of massive public sector cuts, the millions that have been wasted could have been spent improving public services.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, convenor of the Green Group of Councillors, Brighton & Hove



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