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DDDC’s rubbish contract with Serco

August 4, 2021 7:51 PM
By Peter Dobbs

Lib Dems call for independent enquiry into bins mess

Overflowing DDDC bins (Derby Telegraph)

(c) Derby Telegraph

Derbyshire Dales Liberal Democrats have launched a petition here requesting that Derbyshire Dales District Council set up an independent enquiry into how Serco has been carrying out its waste contract.

Background

This was a new 8 year contract that started on 2nd August 2020, having been agreed in December 2019. Serco had been the previous contract holder but there were several changes in the new contract including a 'paid for' additional garden waste service and the requirement for DDDC to buy new 'bin lorries' and lease them to Serco. It was also significantly more expensive for DDDC than the previous contract.

It only took until 12th August 2020 - a grand total of 10 days - for Serco to be given its first bail out of £100k. This was apparently due to their increased costs of maintaining the old refuse collection vehicles since the new replacements had not yet been delivered.

It should also be noted that garden waste collections under the old contract had been suspended at the time of the first lockdown in spring 2020 and additional funding of approximately £3k per week was granted in May 2020 to recommence these collections.

Estimates in the press link suggest that DDDC have provided an additional £350k to Serco in the last year.

Confusion descends into chaos

The popularity of the 'paid for' garden waste service was greater than anticipated and once it started in April 2021 it seems to have placed a load on Serco that its resources have failed to meet. Spring and summer 2021 have seen an ongoing saga of missed collections of all kinds as well as rule changes about what is being collected and when, that have necessitated 14 announcements to residents on the DDDC website in the last two months alone.

Should we give Serco up to £200k with no guarantee of improvement?

This was, in essence, the question being asked of District Councillors at the Extraordinary Full Council meeting of 27th July 2021.

By agreeing to allow Serco to stop garden waste collections for August, DDDC are set to lose £55k in recycling credits. Green bin with £ signs (Peter Dobbs)

By agreeing to lease an extra waste collection vehicle until March 2022 they are spending thousands each month.

By agreeing to provide a 50% contribution towards extra pay for the HGV drivers they are spending up to £150k over the next 8 months.

Public Outcry

The volume and strength of feeling in the comments received by councillors and expressed on social media demonstrates that DDDC - and the Conservative councillors that voted for this bailout - are significantly out of step with their electorate.

The Full Council meeting on the 27th July has been viewed over 2,300 times on YouTube and there were 50 pages of written comments and questions sent to the Council about this agenda item. A large number reflected the frustration felt by residents who have been denied a service that they had paid extra to receive and who are being offered no compensation for this loss.

Others were greatly concerned by the environmental implications of sending food waste to landfill.

On top of that are the seemingly confused and endless updates on the website, the lack of compensation this year for those who had paid for garden waste to be removed, and the decision not to allow a delivered letter to be sent explaining the situation (bearing in mind that many residents may not be on social media and therefore are otherwise unaware of what is going on). What is left is an almighty mess and a significant backlash to DDDC.

Serco

Perhaps above all, it has been the fact that a highly profitable multinational company was asking a small District Council for large sums of money that caused most outrage amongst correspondents. The question asked by both councillors and residents was why Serco had not considered solving the problem of HGV driver shortage themselves by offering higher pay and / or enhanced conditions?

No satisfactory reply was offered by the Serco bosses present at the meeting and they did little to repair the reputational damage to their company.

Profit, it seems, trumps everything.

Further background can be found in this article from the Central Bylines website.