Privatisation and Waste Management – Cory Environmental at Southend-on-Sea

Southend beach 2

“There is no place for private companies who answer to shareholders, not patients, parents and service users in our public services.” – Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary

Cory Environmental

started out in 1896 as William Cory and Son Ltd, transporting coal into London on the River Thames.  Coal was the lifeblood of the city and after they had made a fortune in the first thirty years they diversified and began to transport waste using the city’s waterways.  In the 1980s however the company grew weary of the union riddled coal and oil distribution business and these services were sold, and the business decided to expand into and concentrate upon waste management.

In 1990 the company was renamed Cory Environmental and it appointed Mike Blundy and Roger Mellor, Blunders and Bodger to run the municipal division.

In the first year they made a huge number of mistakes but then these two pygmies of the business world went a step further than ever before and were jointly responsible for the biggest catastrophe of all when they bid for and won the Southend-on-Sea waste management contract in Essex.

They had been so determined to win this contract because they had both worked for the previous contractor, BIFFA, who had let them both go (if you know what I mean?) and they were determined to get their own back!  And they did so in spectacular style and within weeks of starting operations the contract was losing a huge amount of money at the running rate of over one million pounds a year.  Bodger was exposed as completely inept, he might have been ok as a bus driver but he actually had no idea about vehicles at all and he couldn’t organise refuse collection or street cleaning routes to save his life.

Blunders pressed the panic button.

Biffa Waste Services

Mike Jarvis at Cory Environmental…

He called for Mike Jarvis who had an impressive track record of success and, because, to begin with, we had been doing quite well at the Gedling contract (mostly down to good luck it has to be said) I was drafted in to assist him.

It was a complete shambles and it was all the achievement of Blunders and Bodger.   No matter how good they might have been no one, not even Mike, could possibly correct the mistakes that these two clowns had made and in spite of everything that was done there was no magic solution and the contract kept losing hundreds of thousands of pounds and eventually David Riddle, the Group Chief Executive, had had more than enough and one day invited Blunders to reconsider his career path.

They both should have gone of course but no one would ever describe Bodger as loyal or reliable and he knifed poor old Blunders in the back (several times I seem to remember) to save himself.  After being bitten by an adder at the depot Mike went back to Bethnal Green and I got a substantial pay rise and stayed on as contract manager at Southend and Cory Environmental paid for me to live in the Camelia Hotel on Eastern Esplanade in Thorpe Bay for the rest of the Summer.

Camelia Hotel Westcliffe-on-Sea

Camelia Hotel, Thorpe Bay, Southend on Sea

The Company now needed a replacement Managing Director (someone who knew about running a waste management company would have been useful) but we got a man called Jeremy Smith who was considered suitable on the dubious basis that he had been running one of the Company’s shipping divisions somewhere in Colonial Africa.

Jeremy Smith at Cory Environmental…


It turned out that Cory needed somewhere to put a loyal long serving senior manager and to be fair Jeremy was a great bloke but he was an expert in ships and docks, jetties and piers, dockers and stevedores and just wasn’t suited to collecting council rubbish.  To make his job even more difficult he didn’t have the support of Bodger who sharpened his knife and did his best to undermine him at every opportunity.

Just like Blunders, Jeremy needed more business, preferably something profitable, and he won his first contract in Woodspring in Somerset.  As usual there was great initial optimism about what was expected to be a spectacularly profitable contract especially after the brilliant appointment to contract manager of an ex Ginsters door-to-door pie salesman on the basis that he was familiar with the area!  Unhappily the honeymoon period didn’t last very long, neither did Simple Simon and soon it was the familiar old story of wretched financial performance and more unsustainable losses to add to the company woes.

I was glad that they had won Woodspring because by now the Company had accepted that I had done just about all that I could do at Southend by getting the contract to break-even (only for one month it has to be said, and with a great deal of ‘creative accounting’) and I found myself called upon more and more often to join the ‘putting things right’ team and there was a great deal of work for them to do that was for sure.

In 1992 I spent a very pleasant summer at the Royal Pier Hotel in Weston-super-Mare alongside Mike Jarvis and the new Tendering Manager, Paul Ammonds (who was obliged to be on the team to try and put right what he had put wrong in the first place), Gary O’Hagan (Contract manager for three years running) and just about anyone else who happened to be available for additional weekend seaside duties.

Royal Pier Hotel Weston-Super-Mare

Hotel Royal Pier, Weston-Super-Mare

On the whole we didn’t mind this because to compensate us the Company used to put us up in smart hotels and there was always an open bar which resulted in some very large bills I can tell you.  This was how daft the Company was because despite the fact that the financial position was completely dire they never clamped down on excessive bar and restaurant bills and we just added to the problem that we were there to try and solve.

Institute of Waste Annual Conference…

For example, every year in June we all turned up to the Institute of Waste Annual Conference in Torbay, booked into nice hotels and got stuck into the bars and no one ever had the brains to stop it.  One weekend I took the whole family to Weston-super-Mare for a long weekend just because there was a bit of work to do on the Saturday morning.  We never sorted Woodspring out and the accounts were still leaking like a sieve several months later but even though we were spectacularly unsuccessful we still kept getting the emergency calls to other locations which meant more hotels, more bars and more restaurants.

Sadly, the Royal Pier Hotel burnt down in a suspicious accident in June 2009 while it was waiting redevelopment.

Carrick District Council Waste Management…

One summer Bernard at Carrick lost the brand new beach cleaning tractor in the sea and wrote it off and I was sent to Truro to help him out.  I liked Truro and found more and more reasons to return to the city and stay in the best hotel in town, the Royal on Lemon Street,  as many times as I could.  I especially liked to go there during the summer, walk around the town and drive around the Lizard and all the holiday villages visiting the beaches.

Royal Hotel truro

Royal Hotel, Truro, now renamed Mannings Royal

Then the Company won another contract, this time in Kent, at Tonbridge and Malling, this wasn’t quite such a fiasco and Ron Mason the contract manager was rather good but once again the tendering team had got it wrong, it was another loss maker and the team was called in again.

Jeremy never got another chance to win any more work after this because after this debacle the top man lost his patience and put a stop to tendering and insisted that he concentrate instead on improving the existing failing bits of the business.

I liked Jeremy but I didn’t like Bodger and he and I began less and less to see eye-to-eye.  Mike Jarvis left in 1994 to go to rival company Onyx UK and because I was sure that Bodger had blocked my promotion to Mike’s old job as Regional Manager I started to sulk.

The man who got the job was a good bloke called Bill Swan who one day had a row with Blunders and told him that one of them would have to go and a couple of days later Bill had been reassigned to duties elsewhere in the group.  A couple of months later I followed Mike to Mile End Road and accepted the job of Contract Manager at the new contract at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire.

Jeremy surprised us all and turned out to be more than a match for Bodger and about twelve months later he was belatedly removed from his job and a short time after that Jeremy went back to shipping.

Cory Environmental Office Southend



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