Former Islington Council waste worker hits back over town hall’s claim staff with addiction problems are partly to blame for £2m overspend

Cllr Andy Hull speaks at the hate crime meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cllr Andy Hull speaks at the hate crime meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A former waste worker has rubbished claims drink and drug abuse among staff is partly to blame for the department’s £2million overspend.

Andre Samuel worked as a commercial waste officer in Islington’s environment and regeneration team for 14 years but left in 2017 – and he claims the management’s “lack of planning and vision” is what’s really causing the deficit.

His intervention comes after Islington’s crime chief Cllr Andy Hull (Lab, Highbury West) last week said alcohol and drugs use among some workers was contributing towards a £1.6m overspend on “additional staff costs”, as agency workers were being hired in to cover staff who hadn’t turned up.

Cllr Hull also acknowledged the council’s new random drug testing programme had resulted in more workers being sent home.

But Andre said: “I have seen how people are being treated. They [the council] have done nothing to support staff and it’s shameful.

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“When random drugs testing was first introduced, people were encouraged to come forward and talk about their problems.

“A worker then went to the managers and said ‘I have an issue’ but was sacked – they lied and it’s not fair.”

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He also claimed the department spends its cash frivolously, saying it laid out £100,000 on staff phones and paid last year paid a German company £1m to come and train staff. “How is it value for money when they are cutting benefits but also handing out mobiles to workers?” he said.

Islington Council did not respond to these claims when approached by the Gazette, saying only: “We are looking at how we can reduce the anticipated overspend in environment and regeneration. As always, the council continues to offer support, help and advice to all staff with health issues.”

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting last week, Cllr Hull said: “The overriding driver of the overspend is bin men and women not showing up for work and us having to get in agency staff to cover them.”

But Andre challenged this statement, telling the Gazette: “It’s over budget because of bad management, paying for overtime when that need not be the case, bad planning and lack of vision.”

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