Fakenham councillor hits out over bin firm concerns
A councillor has said she was “gob-smacked” after feeling her concerns over bin collection had been shut down at the first meeting of the new North Norfolk District Council cabinet.
The cross-party cabinet met for the first time on Monday, less than a fortnight after a vote of no confidence in the previous, Conservative-led, administration.
During the members’ questions section of the meeting, Tory councillor Annie Claussen-Reynolds asked the cabinet whether it anticipated any implications from the current financial situation within the Kier Group – which provide’s waste collection for the district.
It emerged over the weekend that the firm was struggling with a debt of more than £620m and had launched a rights issue in an attempt to combat this.
However, Fakenham councillor Mrs Claussen-Reynolds was told by the monitoring officer that the issue could not be discussed at the meeting, as the members’ questioning section of cabinet was solely for addressing items on the agenda.
She was told this differentiates from full council, when members can raise any issue.
Mrs Claussen-Reynolds said: “As this was the first meeting after the news broke, I was simply wanting to make an important matter known at the earliest possible opportunity.
“However, I was gob-smacked by how quickly the question was shut down.”
However, despite the monitoring officer’s instructions, the new Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Butikofer did insist the issue was important enough to warrant some response.
Nick Baker, joint corporate director at the council, said officers had not been made aware of any potential impact from Kier’s financial situation.
Mrs Claussen-Reynolds added that she would likely raise the matter again at full council later in the month, after rules prevented it being discussed at length.
A Kier spokesman said: “We have been working corroboratively with North Norfolk District Council since 2011 and are committed to delivering services to the 55,000 properties we visit across the county.”
Meanwhile, the two Tory cabinet members – Hilary Cox and Nigel Dixon – have insisted their situations had not changed after declining to resign from the Conservative group last week.
Former council leader John Lee had demanded that both tender their resignations after accepting posts in the cross-party cabinet, against group wishes.