We need wizardry to save Seaford tip

Two options for avoiding total closure of Seaford Tip may be on the table:

(1) as mentioned in Norman Baker MP’s January 6 letter, closing all 12 sites for one day a week to make budget savings;

(2) keeping Seaford tip open for three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

Option (1) has merit in spreading the pain, though it may be tricky to realise savings and there would be initial hassle revising the staff rota across all sites.

Option (2) seems at first sight tempting, but has serious drawbacks, not least in the strings attached. Although it offers a solution for those without car access, for the majority, there would be unacceptably long car queues at weekends, tempting people who have loaded up to fly tip.

Three-day opening might reduce the expense of doubling Newhaven tip’s capacity to absorb Seaford, but more importantly, Newhaven’s traffic on working weekdays would be snarled up. Also Wadhurst and Forest Row with less vocal opposition may not be saved.

On his Facebook page, Sam Adeniji the Conservative councillor who led the impressive 10,200 petition opposing Seaford closure, says that a meeting of East Sussex inner cabinet in late January would consider Option (2), BUT the trade-off is that it would mean withdrawing the petition and forfeiting the full ESCC debate.

Some residents resent what they see as political pragmatism or worse. Sam Adeniji needs feedback on whether to abandon the fight which so many signatories supported, and swallow this possible deal floated by his party colleagues.

Throughout, East Sussex CC has refused to publish the figures behind the closure, almost as if it is trying to wear down opposition. First, it stonewalled Norman Baker MP on the grounds it might damage its negotiations with the contractor Veolia. Then it fed the press the figure of £250k annual saving – slightly misleading as it was for all three sites combined. My statutory information requests squeezed out from them that Seaford may be a third of this, viz. £80k alleged saving.

So Option (2) – closing for four days a week might only save £40k a year, small change given its value to Seaford.

East Sussex now admit they don’t know basic costs such as site staffing to make their guesstimates. It feels as if the information is being concealed like the Wizard of Oz because there’s nothing behind the curtain except recondite contractual levers and pulleys. After waiting three weeks to have my information requests turned down (which worryingly, they‘d mislaid inside their computer system), I have next to wait for up to eight weeks for ESCC to review its own refusal before I can appeal to the Information Commissioner, whose decision will come after Seaford tip is done and dusted. But if ESCC concede my appeal, the information hopefully can help the full ESCC debate. Unless Norman Baker MP can save Seaford tip before then. That’d be a real wizard.

Mike Vallely