Bexley Council’s leader has accused opposition Labour of “encouraging” last year’s “summer of stink”, where rubbish piled outside homes as bin workers went on strike.

The six week walkout in 2021 made headlines as many residents of the south-east London borough had to go without waste services during the dispute.

The workers – backed by Unite the Union – and Serco, which was then contracted to run waste services, eventually reached a solution that saw pay hikes for staff.

Labour hit back at the claim and said blame lays firmly with the Conservatives on the issue, as both parties jostle for votes ahead of next month’s local elections.

Conservative councillor Teresa O’Neill, who is the longest-serving council leader in London, reflected on the strike and the council’s future plans as she spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

On the bin strike, councillor O’Neill said she believes voters will have seen the work being put in to reduce the damage.

She said: “It did make headlines [but] while Labour councillors were standing on picket lines and encouraging it, Conservative councillors were encouraging Serco and Unite to get together and resolve it.

"In addition to encouraging a resolution, we got alternatives for our people to dispose of their rubbish and it was really heartening [to see] neighbours helping one another.

“I think residents see and are proud of what they do as residents in regards to recycling.

"Every one of our residents is responsible for our 17 years as the top recycler, every one of our residents were responsible for making sure things got [taken] away last year, so I think they understand and they see what we did at the time to make sure [the strike] was bought to an end.

“I hope that they also see that Labour wanted it to continue.”

A spokesperson for the Bexley Labour group said in response: “Bexley Labour Group refute the allegation that we wanted the strike to continue, that is a nonsense.

"Bexley Tories had cut £2.5 million over the length of the previous waste contract and they had overseen a race to the bottom of terms of conditions of refuse workers.

“We believe that workers deserve a proper living wage and better terms and conditions of employment and supported the workers in taking strike action to achieve that goal.

"The residents of Bexley’s blamed the Conservative run Council, not the refuse workers or the Labour group.”

Cllr O’Neill also spoke about the Tories’ plans if re-elected as the majority party on May 5.

Among their plans, the party will continue to lobby for a greater Government grant similar to what Greenwich receives, work to protect parks and open spaces and grow local apprenticeship programmes.

The Council Leader also spoke of plans for a better transport network across the borough and said: “There are conversations, certainly in the north of the borough, of bringing the DLR to Belvedere.

"You’ll be aware of our continuing campaign to finish out the job of Crossrail 1 by linking up Abbey Wood through to Ebbsfleet and stopping in Bexley.

“In this term, we were fortunate enough to have argued for Thameslink and Thameslink now comes through the borough.

"All of these make a lot of difference to our residents.”

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