Immediate action needed to save Greenlight jobs and recycling services
Councillors McColl (SNP), Bollan (Community Party) and McBride (Labour).
By Bill Heaney
It’s a week now since the citizens of West Dunbartonshire received the bad news that the Greenlight recycling company had finally gone bust.
It was a huge blow for SNP council leader Jonathan McColl and for the whole community.
Almost immediately after the gates shut at the Dalmoak and Old Kilpatrick recycling depots and at the centre in Rosshead, Alexandria, the fly-tipping began.
Jonathan, who the previous week was so confident that the worst would not happen, and that Greenlight would be rescued from the arms of the administrators, that he supported a Labour motion at the full council meeting to give the 109 workers who had been paid off the council’s full support.
The Labour motion from Cllr David McBride was a weak one though and didn’t go as far as to commit to bringing the recycling company and its workforce under the control of the council.
Only Cllr Jim Bollan, of the Community Party, was prepared to take that step and none of his fellow elected members was prepared to support him.
The SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and the Independent Denis Agnew decided to let the anxious Greenlight workforce swing in the wind.
There were no official statements from the Council, just an indication that skips would be provided OUTSIDE the recycling depots and an appeal to residents to hold on to their rubbish. And not to go fly-tipping.
Cllr McColl, who has an aversion to speaking to the media – especially The Democrat – decided to make a public statement to the Reporter newspaper, which sells about 1,500 copies a week.
Someone really should tell him that we have 90,000 people living in West Dunbartonshire and that The Reporter, although doing its best at what is generally accepted as time of crisis for newspapers, makes very little impact when it comes to household penetration.
What is worse though is that Cllr McColl decided to take his mission statement on this crisis out of the hands of the journalists and write an Opinion piece himself.
Needless to say, it was a piece of interminable waffle.
Greenlight had failed to find a buyer, he revealed, telling the readers what most of them had known since Friday when the word spread through the community from the minute it happened.
Reaching immediately for the inevitable cliché, Jonathan wrote that “this was a hard pill to swallow”.
Greenlight had secure contracts with three local authorities, all of whom were willing to renegotiate our rates and pay more for their services.
“That suggests there were deep, fundamental flaws in Greenlight’s business model,” he wrote.
And then he maintained that the three councils, who buy services from Greenlight, had been “working together from the second they told us they were applying for voluntary administration”.
Really? But Cllr McColl had given everyone at a public meeting a couple of days previously the impression that the council would not be interfering.
And that the SNP administration certainly would not be making a commitment to bring Greenlight under the wing of the Council before all the financial ramifications were worked out.
More clichés followed. Council officials had “moved heaven and earth” to help the administrators and had even accelerated more public money being placed in Greenlight’s bank account.
It was said that cash was to pay the wages of the struggling workforce, but to speed up large payments into the bank of a company on the brink of collapse, one with a mystery hanging over it as to where all the previous money had gone, doesn’t sound to me like sound business practice.
Cllr McColl added: “Our focus from day one has been working to maintain services and protect jobs, but as with any business in administration, we are in the hands of the court and limited with what we can do.”
Remarkably, the SNP leader, then compared the collapse of tiny Greenlight to the demise of giant BHS (Philip Green and all that) and said he hoped the council’s employability team, working with the DWP and others, could find the 109 redundant workers alternative employment as quickly as possible.
But that’s not what the electorate wants, Jonathan. They want the recycling stations opened properly as soon as possible and they want their rubbish collected.
They do not want to fly-tipping to take place throughout West Dunbartonshire and the place to look like a dump.
They do not want the equipment at the recycling centres to rust and become unusable and have to be replaced at huge expense to the taxpayers.
That is what happened when the Council let the grass grow so long that the mowers they had packed up and had to be replaced by the super expensive machines they were testing on Dumbarton Common earlier this week.
Cllr McColl wrote: “We’re looking at all options to maintain these services and the jobs, including employing some or all of the staff to work in-house, but we must be careful not to burden the council with avoidable extra costs or liabilities that would put more jobs and services in jeopardy.”
Why don’t you stop pussy-footing around Jonathan and get on with the job of providing the services which you have told us are so important to this community?
You appear to be obsessed by saving money, but the cuts you imposed in the annual budget have brought nothing but misery and extra expense to the citizens of West Dunbartonshire.
Finally, you wrote: “Greenlight’s failure will mean huge extra expense for the council. If others had gotten their way during the budget setting, our reserves would be empty.
“We’d be facing potential council redundancies and more service cuts right now so we could provide a recycling service.
“Situations like this are why we have reserves to cover unexpected costs and I’m thankful we did not succumb to the pressure and take the easy route of raiding those reserves to make ends meet.”
So, once again we are told the SNP is always right and the Opposition parties always wrong.
What in effect you are telling the public is that our SNP council did not believe that the possibility of losing completely the Greenlight recycling business and the 109 jobs that go with it were worth dipping into the reserves for?
Come off it. You almost ruined Levengrove Park and caused widespread concern and dismay with your biodiversity nonsense and failure to cut grass and plant flowers.
Now, by your decision not to take over Greenlight you have laid the groundwork for fly-tipping on top of the uncut and uncollected grass.
The Council’s cash reserves are there to be used in times of crisis. This is a crisis.