Camden's rubbish contractors under fire for continuing operations in Russia

Veolia say it is complying with sanctions

Friday, 22nd April — By Tom Foot

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Veolia has had a contract with Camden since 2003

THE council’s rubbish and recycling contractor has been accused of being “tone deaf” to the war in Ukraine for failing to stop operations in Russia.

Veolia defended its decision to the New Journal this week saying it was fulfilling “a vital public service” and was complying with sanctions.

The council has outsourced services to the French company since 2003.

Environment chief Cllr Adam Harrison said: “Veolia should be under no illusions about how serious it is if they continue to trade in Russia. The war and destruction wrought on Ukraine by the Russian regime should mean they withdraw completely.

“Frankly, talking about ‘continuing a vital public service’ in Russia is, at best, tone-deaf, and is deeply insulting to murdered, tortured and displaced Ukrainians. They should not ‘serve communities’ in Russia that are sending troops to war.

“This remains – of course – no reflection on the hard work Veolia staff do on the ground week in, week out, in Camden. Clearly the more senior people at the company need to do better by their UK employees too. ”

He added: “Moreover, if Veolia is maintaining it is in full sanctions compliance, then the UK government also needs to tighten sanctions rules in order to prevent it and other firms operating in Russia.”

Camden Council has a contract with the French company worth an estimated £338 million that could run until 2032.

It has been the butt of years of criticism from residents who feel more should be done to improve waste collection and recycling rates in Camden.

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said: “This is the first time that Labour has dared criticise their failing waste service with Veolia. For years, Labour and Veolia have worked hand in hand to deliver ever-worse services, with fewer bin collections and more fly-tipping than ever. So of course their only criticism of Veolia is on foreign policy, not waste policy.

“Camden and Veolia signed their contract to cut bin collections in 2016: two years after Russia first invaded Ukraine. Yet there was no peep then from Labour to either Veolia operating in Russia or delivering worse services here in Camden.

“Nobody should do business with companies that work for the Russian state, but Camden Council shows nowhere near as much passion in keeping streets clean and collecting bins regularly. Camden should have cancelled its broken waste contract years ago.”

Veolia is just one of a just handful of companies with UK public contracts that continue to trade in Russia despite sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. It has been providing waste and energy services in St Petersburg for ten years.

According to its most recent accounts, the Veolia group’s “exposure” to Russia and Ukraine is “very limited” and is worth around 120m euros, around 0.3 per cent of the company’s total revenue.

The Ukrainian parliament has created legislation that imposes higher tax rates on firms with links to Russia, as well as employees of those firms still conducting business in the country. Ministers there have called for similar legislation to be adopted in this country.

A Veolia spokesperson told New Journal the company considered itself to be complying with sanctions policy, adding: “We utterly condemn war and violence in Ukraine. We are providing absolutely no new funding for our operations in Russia and have stopped all new investment and all financial flows between the Group and our Russian subsidiary.

“In full compliance with the current sanctions regime, we are maintaining our responsibility to our employees and the communities we serve by continuing our vital public service operations in both Ukraine and Russia.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “We have been clear from the outset that public money should not fund Putin’s war machine.”

 

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