Opposition amendment to reverse decision fails at Ealing Council meeting
Cllr Andrew Steed outside the Stirling Road Recycling Centre
March 3, 2021
An attempt by opposition councillors to persuade Ealing Council not to proceed with the plan to close the Acton Refuse and Recycling Centre has failed.
The closure of the tip at Stirling Road was part of the borough’s annual budget which was debated at a virtual full Council meeting on Wednesday (2 March).
An opposition motion was tabled to remove the closure proposal from the budget. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both been campaigning to keep the recycling centre open with concerns residents in the borough will have to travel to the recycling centre in Greenford which will increase likelihood of fly tipping and increase car journeys. The amendment was approved by the Council’s Finance officer and would have been funded by small reductions in the Council’s marketing budget and a cut to Councillors’ allowances. However, the Labour councillors voted against it.
Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Steed said, “Our amendment singles out the bewildering decision to close the Acton recycling depot…
“The most depressing part of this whole exercise is that the senior officer in charge has gone out of his way to justify the closure of the Stirling Road site because of the development potential of that site in Acton of potential capital gain of £1.2m maybe more.”
He added that the Council had admit that more people will fly tip and urged residents to sign his party’s petition against closure. At time of writing it had 1,800 signatures.
Conservative councillor Anthony Young warned it wasn’t “good practice” to announce the closure within a budget report as it makes it a “done deal” without any public scrutiny.
Council leader Julian Bell said, “We don’t want to make these decisions but these are the difficult choices you have to make when you are actually in power and trying to make a budget balance when you have no money and the government are cutting you 64p in the £1 in the last 10 years.”
He added that he felt the contention that the closure would cause increased travel times was “nonsense” as a recycling centre in Abbey Road, in Park Royal would be made available to residents to go to as a replacement.
He said from Ealing Council’s headquarters at Perceval House on Uxbridge Road, where he was sitting it was a one minute difference to drive to Abbey Road compared to Acton’s site in Stirling Road.
“Let’s stop that nonsense before it goes any further. We didn’t want to do this but we have to do it and we will find an opportunity for people to recycle at the Abbey Road,” he said.
Ealing residents living in Band D properties will be paying an extra £93.40 a year for their borough council tax bill after the annual budget was approved by councillors. There will be an increase of 1.99 per cent for the local authority’s levy and three per cent for the social care precept, the maximum allowed without the need to hold a referendum.
Labour council leader Julian Bell blasted the council tax rise as a “Tory tax bombshell”.
Despite setting out the Lib Dem position against the budget, Cllr Steed said the group accepted the increase in the borough’s council tax and supported the increase of a 300 per cent premium to be paid on top of council tax by property owners of homes left empty for more than 10 years.
The £400-million loan to Ealing Council’s own housing development company Broadway Living was also approved in the budget over a 50-year-period. It is aiming to build 1,500 new homes, the “majority” of which to be “genuinely affordable”.
Speaking after the meeting, finance boss cClr Bassam Mahfouz said: “Despite the challenges we are facing, we are determined to continue supporting our residents. I am pleased that we have a roadmap out of lockdown, but it’s clear that the financial and social impacts of the past 12 months are going to be felt for many years to come.
“The services we provide to the most vulnerable people in society are going to be more important than ever in the years to come and that is why we are focused on protecting them, despite the unrelenting pressures we are facing. We want to be able to meet the increasing demand that we know is coming.”
“Unfortunately, the council tax rise is unavoidable. We aren’t happy about it and would much rather the government had provided the funding we need rather than pass the costs of the pandemic on to our residents. However, I’m proud that we are continuing to invest in the borough.”
Written with contributions from Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter