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Bin mess? Tulip Siddiq says she has ‘bombarded’ Camden Council with complaints

Labour candidate unleashes rebel streak as she also tells Town Hall colleagues they've got it wrong over dementia centre closure

11 May, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Tulip Siddiq with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour supporters at a campaign rally in Swiss Cottage

TULIP Siddiq will not shoulder the blame for problems with Camden Council’s bin collections and is openly telling voters that she has her own concerns about the new system and has “bombarded” the Town Hall with objections.

The Labour candidate who is fighting to retain her Commons seat is also ready to challenge party colleagues on the move to close the Netherwood dementia centre in West Hampstead, potentially putting her at odds with new council leader Georgia Gould on the issue.

Councillor Gould was among around 150 Labour members who swamped the Swiss Cottage Open Space for a campaign rally with London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Saturday ahead of next month’s general election.

Supporters say Ms Siddiq’s firm comments on both council policies show she is not bound by a desire to keep favour within the party, an approach they say also applies to her relationship with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But the Conservative challenger for the Hampstead and Kilburn seat Claire-Louise Leyland questioned why Ms Siddiq has not made her views on the issues clear before.

The Tories have run at least one leaflet during the campaign telling voters that Ms Siddiq has “never opposed Camden’s bin chaos”. Election canvassers from all sides have found in recent days that while Brexit and leadership issues are on voters’ minds ahead of the June 8 polling day, they also want to talk about neighbourhood issues, including the cut in bin collections in some areas of Camden from weekly to fortnightly pick-ups.

Critics of the move, introduced at the start of April, say it has led to an increase in fly-tipping and rubbish piling up after missed collections, attracting vermin.

Ms Siddiq said yesterday (Wednesday): “There have been deep frustrations with the new Veolia waste contract in Camden. “I have first hand experience of this. I live in West Hampstead and have a baby and am concerned about the prospect of uncollected waste.”

She added: “I have spoken to many constituents at surgeries who have complained about the unacceptable teething problems caused by the changes to recycling collections, and I have bombarded the council with objections. I’m not interested in playing politics with this – it’s an issue the council and Veolia must get right. I have spoken at length with Georgia, and have facilitated walkabouts with her to observe the spots which residents have highlighted. A positive of the change is that recycling is up by 7 per cent from 2016, and I am sure all those who want to see a greener Camden will welcome that news.”

She said the changes had been forced on the council by “devastating cuts” ordered by the government “but a long-term approach to improving our local environment will always be necessary”.

Camden councillors have already apologised for problems at the start of the new contract – at one stage 3,000 telephone complaints a day were logged – but predict the system will soon bed in.

Ms Leyland, the leader of the Conservative group at the Town Hall, said: “From the moment the proposed changes were announced last year, I’ve been acting on residents’ concerns and asking questions of what it will mean for them and how they will be affected. Tulip was asked about it but did not respond. I know she was, because some of her constituents told me they contacted her to tell her how it would impact on their lives and the difficulties they would face. I’ve seen some of the emails.”

Claire-Louise Leyland with Culture Secretary Karen Bradley last week

She added: “As an MP, it is part of your role to debate policies on a national level but you must also be aware of the local concerns across the constituency and the issue of waste collection has been there. It is difficult if you are going to question and challenge a policy after a decision has already been made, and we haven’t heard from Tulip at all on this issue previously. You have to ask why she is making these comments now.”

Ms Siddiq, a former councillor, has also gone on the record as being against the council’s proposed closure of the Netherwood Day Centre, an issue which came up again at a tense council meeting on Monday evening. “Netherwood should remain open as Camden’s specialist centre which fully meets the needs of dementia patients,” she said, adding that mixing care services at a new centre in Kingsgate Road should be avoided. “Specialist services are essential for high-dementia-need patients. Combining provisions with non-sufferers can be detrimental for both groups,” she said.

Ms Leyland again said the timing of Ms Siddiq’s intervention was late in the day. “We have been through the consultation. Concerns have been raised, and again we are only hearing on a sensitive and important issue from Tulip now,” she said. “The issue of Netherwood is complex as I do believe we need a new centre for dementia care with an increased need and an older population. But the Friends of Netherwood group have questioned how the use of the centre and the numbers using it have been evaluated and I do think what they are saying is worthy of further exploration.”

Ms Siddiq and Ms Leyland are entering the final four weeks of their election duel with analysts struggling to predict who will win. Mr Khan said at the rally: “What you want in this community is an advocate and a champion for the community. You want someone who will say boo to the goose.  The record for most questions asked in PMQs is from Tulip Siddiq. The person standing up for Londoners – 17,000 EU citizens in Hampstead and Kilburn by the way – is Tulip Siddiq. The person who is saying we want a good deal with the EU, because it means jobs, growth and security, is Tulip Siddiq.”

The Lib Dems are fielding Kirsty Allan in Hampstead and Kilburn, with her campaign claiming they are bringing in new supporters from Labour and the Tories with an anti-Brexit message that they are the only party standing up for Remainers. The Greens, are running with John Mansook.

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