The Neighbourhoods and Communities Select Committee met on Thursday 17 December to review the changes made to the district’s waste and recycling service in May of this year.
Introducing the main item, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Neighbourhoods Derek Macnab confirmed that, despite extensive local publicity, few public questions had been received, with only two members of the public in the Council Chamber. Major improvements to the service were believed to account for this.
Waste and Recycling Consultant Len Attrill offered the first evidence to members of the committee for review, taking councillors through the thinking behind the use of Competitive Dialogue and the selection of the most economically advantageous contract during procurement.
Senior managers Roger Edwards, Peter Dickson, Les Smith and Simon Crook for the Council’s contractor Biffa Municipal attended the committee to explain what went wrong during the implementation of new arrangements during the summer months. The Council’s cabinet portfolio holder Councillor Will Breare-Hall was also available to answer questions.
Councillors cross-examined the witnesses in depth, asking about issues as diverse as the HR policies of Biffa during the contract handover, the advantages of the four day collection week, the move to a new depot, the size of the new vehicles, the composition of the rounds and the software problems. Councillor Will Breare-Hall said that with hindsight more lead-in time should have been allowed for the introduction of the change to the four day week. He would also have introduced other changes more gradually rather than all in one go.
Waste Manager David Marsh identified the lack of understanding and local knowledge transferred from old crews to new crews. Roger Edwards said that although it could be difficult to transfer knowledge, with hindsight more could be done in the future to achieve it.
Contact Centre Manager Julie Barnard said that the main problem for her staff was the number of missed collections and the repeated failure to collect missed collections once reported. Major improvements in communications between Biffa and the Council since the introduction of the new service have been achieved.
Committee Chairman, Councillor Mary Sartin focused on comments about the failure of assisted collections for residents with special requirements. Simon Crook for Biffa said that a lot of work had since been done to improve this process on behalf of the district’s more vulnerable residents.
Biffa manager Les Smith promised to look personally into problems around contamination of recycling identified by members of the public present at the meeting. Derek Macnab also summarised a list of written questions submitted by members of the public relating to the manner in which Biffa returned emptied bins to households, side-waste and waste separation.
Looking to the future
In summing up, Assistant Director Kim Durrani said that the Council had been in a difficult place but was in a much better position now. Looking to the future he said that the Council was striving with Biffa to improve recycling targets. Simon Crook for Biffa said that he was confident the service was now moving quickly towards the levels everyone would expect. Les Smith of Biffa assured Councillor Heather Brady that Biffa was well prepared for the next few weeks – Christmas – the busiest period of the year.