A better way of running local domestic refuse and recycling collections should lead to an improved service for residents.
A council owned company is to be created for the collection of household waste and recycling in Epping Forest District. It will also provide street cleansing. The decision follows a review of all the options by Optimum Professional Solutions Ltd (OPS) for Epping Forest District Council (EFDC).
Councillors met in a private Cabinet meeting, to allow free discussion of commercially sensitive information.
Speaking after Cabinet, Councillor Ray Balcombe, Contracts Portfolio Holder said:
Waste collection has been under the spotlight since the problems experienced by residents last year. It is one of the most important services we provide. The level of missed collections was unacceptable.
OPS has done a root and branch review. The creation of our own wholly owned company will put day to day management and control of the service back into the hands of the council.
Like many councils, EFDC has contracted refuse and recycling collections out since the early 1990s. A wholly owned company signals a major shift in the council’s policy towards household waste collection, recycling and street cleansing.
The council plan to take full management control includes:
- A council owned operating company
- Buying, or leasing and maintaining its own vehicles
- Building a new operations hub at North Weald to support the vehicle fleet and crews
Councillors will not extend the current contract beyond the November 2024 break point. Jobs will be protected. Many of the current waste and recycling staff will transfer under the TUPE regulations. Additional recruitment opportunities are also expected for other people wishing to join the new operation.
Value for money
Refuse and recycling collection costs are going up. Based on current market trends and discussions with waste contractors, the council’s current £6.6 million budget could go as high as £10 million a year for a new commercial contract.
Councillor Balcombe said:
Waste and recycling collections are expensive, but we are not racing to the bottom. Value for money is much more important than the cheapest option.
The new service will need to hit environmental targets as well as customer expectations. Our residents need and deserve the best possible service.
Residents of Epping Forest have achieved some of the highest recycling rates in the UK. The council owned company is also expected to pay climate change dividends. The council is moving away from diesel, looking at ways to procure a greener, cleaner fleet powered by more sustainable fuels.
The company will have more freedom and flexibility to try out and expand other forms of collection, including new wheelie bins and co-mingled waste. New vehicles able to collect different types of materials could lead to less lorries on the road or shorter journeys.
The need for land fill should reduce as recycling rates increase.
Councillor Balcombe said:
Any changes to our current contract always involve lengthy contractor negotiations. Switching to our own wholly owned company will make us much more agile.
We will be able to try out new methods of collection, keep up with the latest advances in IT and technology, and promote the cleanest environmental services.
Councillors also considered:
- An in-house team to manage and deliver all aspects of the services
- A shared service joint venture with another council
- A new commercial waste contract. Essentially a continuation of the current arrangement with the same or a new contractor
An exciting new opportunity
The current contract provides services to November 2024. Council officers and councillors are working hard to achieve a smooth transfer.
Councillor Balcombe added:
Hand on heart – I know this is a major transition. There may be bumps in the road ahead, but this really is the best long-term plan for our residents and our district. The future looks good.
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