Shhhh. Tonight I’m here to surprise a man of esteemed local importance with my big red book. He began his glittering political career as a trade unionist, became Mayor of Sandwell and is now an Honorary Alderman. Yes Tonight MARTIN JOHN PRESTIDGE, (LORD LANGLEY),
THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
At Trinity Street Towers they have special “friends”. It’s the way it’s always been- there are clear political associations. One of them over the last 40 years has been one Martin John Prestidge- ex councillor, sometime Mayor of Sandwell and now Alderman Prestidge.
Mr Prestidge likes to detail his extensive local Government dealings and affairs via social media, and so it is possible to piece together his entire life story on the internet- all written by himself. THEY ARE HIS WORDS. We’ve been at this for some time before putting together this special tribute- Firstly he explains his distinguished career- please take note of the timescales as they are important to the life of Rattlechain lagoon- we’ll get to that in a moment. All words are his own, they have just been reordered.
Young Martin in 1963
“I first stood for election as a Councillor as a brash 24 year old in 1967. I stood for the Brandhall Ward of the former Warley Council. Warley had been formed in 1966 as an amalgamation of the former Smethwick County Borough with Oldbury ,a Municipal Borough in Worcestershire and Rowley Regis, a Municiplal Borough in Staffordshire.
We lost every seat.”
I was first elected as a Councillor in May 1971 for the Rounds Green Ward of the former Warley County Borough Council which had been formed as part of the 1966 Local Government Reorganisation from the former Boroughs of Oldbury ,Smethwick and Rowley Regis in the Black Country.
I was a member of the Sandwell Council from 1973 to 1975
Why did I decide not to continue? One reason was advancing years, I was 68 last birthday, mainly though because I wansted (sic) to retire while I was still making a useful contribution, but also because I wanted to spend more time doing some of the things in the community ,which I wanted to do, without the responsibility of attending some of the meetings. In short, to have more time for politics as Tony Benn put.
Do I regret my decision? ,No ,Do I miss it? ,not a lot . I continue as a Labour Party activist and hope to do so for many years into the future.”
JUST TO RECAP………
“I did not stand for re election this May as a Councillor for the Langley ward, of Sandwell ,which I have represented since 1987 ever since the demise of the West Midlamds (sic) County Council ,of which I was a member for the whole of it’s existence (1973 to 86) , before that I had been a member of Warley CBC fron (sic) 1971 to 1974,and Sandwell from 1973 to 1975.,
During that period, I saw an awful lot of changes and relly (sic) enjoyed representing local People to the best of my ability.”
So that might be the end of the story, a distinguished career in Local Government, as well as 50+ year stint as a socialist Labour activist. But that isn’t the end of the story. Let’s take a closer look at what MJP was doing in 1977 in The Queen’s Silver Jubilee year as part of the wretched West Midlands County council, which to reemphasise, he was part of for the whole of its existence between 1973-1986. WMCC was the waste management authority which passed the “contentious licence” SL31 for Albright and Wilson’s Rattlechain lagoon, as well as the equally contentious Gower tip, SL32 in 1977.
For not only was the younger Martin on the council at this time, but he was also on the Waste Disposal and Pollution Control Committee that oversaw the creation and issuing of the said licences, as well as a string of others that continue in one form or another to blight the borough of Sandwell and beyond into the distant future- BY VIRTUE OF THEIR CONTAMINATED EXISTENCE. He was also on a sub committee of that group (Joint negotiating sub-committee (waste disposal) of personnel and administration)-
NB. Martin Prestidge has clarified in writing
“THE LATTER DEALT MAINLY WITH PERSONNEL AND ADMINISTRATION MATTERS. AT NO TIME WAS I PERSONALLY INVOLVED WITH NEGOTIATIONS WITH ANY COMPANY CONCERNING THEIR APPLICATIONS. “
Minutes of the December 22nd 1977 committee reveal those councillors serving, as well as declarations of interest by those county councillors. MJP was at the meeting that afternoon. The Rattlechain site licence was on the agenda of the supplementary report of the county waste disposal officer as item 4b with the Gower tip on the agenda as item 4c. An non-pecuniary interest for item 4a only is recorded by Cllr Prestidge-
MARTIN PRESTIDGE HAS CLARIFIED
“THE SITE WAS OWNED BY ACCLES AND POLLACK, WHERE I HAD BEEN EMPLOYED SOME TEN YEARS OR SO PREVIOUSLY. NO PERCUNIARY INTEREST EXISTED.”
If anyone has any info on the other councillors on the committee at this time please get in touch.
Note, as we have pointed out before, the report clearly states that the site has been in use “since 1942”, when the production of AW bombs had ceased at Trinity Street, and the storage of these useless weapons would be an issue.
The Mitco lagoon site is another notorious HAZARDOUS WASTE SITE that was propagated by West Midlands county council, and the fact that the licence appears to have been passed by just one person, the chair, shows just how unscrutinised the process was. The site today is still largely unusable for anything concerning housing, despite the political class pouring fat on the fire regards building on “brownfield sites.”
In the report concerning rattlechain, the draft licence condition 30 limiting the life of the site to 1985 is waived in favour of being without restriction. At this point Councillor MJP is one of three declaring that their names be recorded against this decision.
MARTIN PRESTIDGE HAS MADE THE FOLLOWIING COMMENT CONCERNING THIS
“THE WEST MIDLANDS COUNTY COUNCIL WAS CONSERVATIVE CONTROLLED IN 1977 AND THE LABOUR MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE VOTED FOR A MORE LIMITED CONDITION THAN WAS GRANTED BY THE CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERAL MEMBERS.”
We would however point out that the Labour party controlled the council from 1974–77, with the Conservatives controlling it 1977–81. It reverted to Labour control for the last term 1981–86. Therefore for the creation of the licence and subsequently after it had been passed, the Labour group made no changes to the conditions on the licence.
So a former Sandwell councillor was on a committee that passed a dodgy site waste licence, in fact many of them. Links that MJP had with Albright and Wilson’s and later Rhodia’s fortunes are relevant during this subsequent period of Labour control of the council- for clarity 1981-1986. To explain, Councillor Prestidge celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary on 11th January 2015. He was therefore married to his wife in 1975.
His wife Mary was employed at the Trinity Street site as a secretary to the site manager at the company (Albright and Wilson) for many years (he states 30) before she retired.
In his final declaration as councillor dated May 12th 2010, the he states that his wife is a pensioner of Rhodia consumer specialities Limited. Rhodia of course taking over Albright and Wilson in 2001.
“My Wife – Mrs Mary Prestidge is a pensioner of:- Rhodia Consumer Specialities Ltd and is a Member of UNITE – AMICUS”
MARTIN PRESTIDGE HAS MADE THE FOLLOWING CLARIFICATION CONCERNING HIS WIFE’S EMPLOYMENT.
“NO INTEREST WAS DECLARED BECAUSE NO INTEREST EXISTED. MY WIFE, MARY PRESTIDGE, COMMENCED EMPLOYMENT AT ALBRIGHT AND WILSON IN JANUARY 1980. HER DUTIES WERE PURELY SECRETARIAL AND SHE HAD NO INVOLVEMENT IN MATTERS SUCH AS PLANNING AND LICENSING APPLICATIONS OR WASTE DISPOSAL.”
We would note that the comment written on the facebook page “WE USED TO WORK FOR ALBRIGHT AND WILSON” BY CAROL NICHOLSON AS STATED ABOVE READS-
“GIVE MY REGARDS TO MARY, WE USED TO CATCH THE BUS TOGETHER SOMETIMES FROM ROUNDS GREEN IN THE EARLY 70’s”
This must have refered to some other place of work that they shared, BEFORE THEIR JOINT EMPLOYMENT AT ALBRIGHT AND WILSON.
It is clear that the Trinity Street site has been a major polluter in the Langley area for many years- continuing under Rhodia which by acquisition is merely now called “solvay”. In a recent facebook exchange he stated the following concerning
“I’ve always found the company to be open and honest in their dealings and don’t attempt to cover up anything.”
Oh really Lord Langley, then how about in no particular order
- The toxic effects of white phosphorus that they did not inform us of when entering the site and the water and also at meetings where they had the opportunity.
- Attempting to suggest that birds found with white phosphorus in them had not swallowed enough to cause their deaths, (because of the “small amount” found).
- We know they were poisoned systemically– but this is a far cry away from the lies of Rhodia, that they were even trying to spin with dishonest PR journalists after the chemical had been found. Twelve wildfowl tested all found P4 in 5 different species. All were recovered from the lake, all had been poisoned there by its contents.
- Fires at the site and their cause.
- mis-management by Albright and Wilson/Rhodia/Solvay despite claiming that they were fully compliant with site licensing.
OF COURSE THEY HAVE DONE EXACTLY WHAT HE CLAIMS THEY HAVE NOT DONE- AND COVER UP NOT CLEAN UP RATTLECHAIN LAGOON WITH A SHEET AND SAND- ALL DOWN TO REQUIRED LEGISLATION, AND NOT BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO.
As swanwatch, we once visited one of the three Langley councillors surgeries concerning Rattlechain around 2002. No one from their actual area had turned up to the surgery, one of only 2 held per month, which leaves one asking what the point of having 3 councillors per ward actually is when they are so not rushed off their feet?
At this point MJP did not reveal his wife’s employment with them, WE RAISED THE ISSUE OF BIRDS DYING AT RATTLECHAIN AT THIS SURGERY. It would not be long before the spotlight of Legionnaire’s Disease would be linked to their site and brought the Langley area National attention. The three of them sat eating a selection of cakes in between gulps of tea served with saucers, in addition to David Hinton, councillor for Tividale and husband of Pauline. The whole time Hinton (Mr) yawned repeatedly and loudly as I spoke, which left me not only feeling that he was the rudest man I had ever met, but that it was perhaps a novelty to get someone actually turn up at one of their gigs and they wanted shot to eat more cake. We didn’t even get offered a crumb of French Fancy- I would even have eaten the brown ones.
Here’s a page dedicated to the wildlife at Rattlechain lagoon and how they were poisoned due to the continued dumping of toxic material. REMEMBER THIS WAS LATER UNDER THE SL31 LICENCE PASSED IN 1977. NO OBJECTIONS WERE RECORDED IN THE MINUTES FROM ANY COUNCILLORS REGARDS THIS, AND NO CHANGES WERE MADE TO THE LICENCE UNDER LABOUR CONTROL FROM 1981-1986.
Collectively the West Midlands County Council Waste Disposal and Pollution Control Committee is the perfect advertisement for why we must never go back to a single combined authority, where those who served had not a clue what the consequences of their decisions would be, but leave behind a legacy of pollution that was not controlled. The pollution is still there. FACT. It is still classed as “hazardous”. FACT. The words that best sum up this have been previously documented by Albright and Wilson themselves and cannot be bettered.