THE mayor of Bridgend county borough has urged councillors to consider a different system for waste and recycling collections in the area.
Labour Cllr John Spanswick, who represents Brackla, said the authority should consider providing an in-house waste collection service instead of outsourcing it to a private contractor as per the current arrangement.
Cllr Spanswick said he is “slightly disappointed” with officers’ plans to extend the council’s contract with Kier Services Ltd and he would like the council to discuss bringing the service “in house” in future.
The council’s waste contract has been outsourced to a private company since 2003. The current waste contract has been delivered by Kier since April 2017 and expires in March 2024.
Council officers are recommending that the authority temporarily extends its contract with Kier for another two or three years to give it enough time to draw-up plans to use ultra-low emissions waste vehicles in the future.
It is hoped the short-term extension will give the council time to test new vehicles for waste and recycling collection that will enable it to meet Welsh Government targets and reduce carbon emissions.
“This is the most prudent way of making sure we get the right contract for the future,” said Janine Nightingale, the council’s corporate director for communities.
According to a report by Ms Nightingale, recycling levels in Bridgend were 67.6% in 2019/20 – above the Welsh average of 65.1%. The Welsh Government has set a target of 70% for 2024/25.
The council can extend its contract with Kier for another seven years until March 2031 or make new arrangements. If the authority wants to pursue an alternative to Kier, consultations and trials must be held this year so there is enough time to introduce a new set-up by April 2024.
A survey in 2019 found 71% of respondents thought the council’s kerbside collection service is “very good” or “fairly good” while 10% said it was “poor” or “very poor”.
Independent councillor Alex Williams said: “It really doesn’t sit well with me that we are approaching this in this… clearly there’s no appetite on bringing the service in house but surely a competitive tender for this contract would demonstrate a benchmark and value for money for the public purse?”
He said the council’s plan “represents a rigorous approach to public procurement and value for money”.
He added: “I’m just not convinced by the need for a contract extension rather than going out to full procurement… I believe a competitive tender to the private sector would be more appropriate than just extending the contract.
“You would have thought you’d have some foresight into thinking about the options before the end of the contract so we’re not in a position where we have to extend the contract.”
“It’s unwise to make those decisions now,” said Ms Nightingale. “We need to work through those uncertainties to make sure we’re procuring the right contract when we get to those decisions. We would procure during that contract extension time.”
Cabinet member for communities Stuart Baldwin said: “Nobody is saying that in house isn’t an option it’s just that we haven’t been able to look at the wider options at this moment in time to allow us to come up with a different response.”
He said a separate discussion could be help regarding the long-term future of the council’s waste contract where alternative options to Kier could be considered.
Zak Shell, the council’s head of operations for community services, said the current contract with Kier was competitively procured “to ensure good value for money”.
Gill Lewis, interim chief officer for finance, performance and change, said: “If we were to embark on buying a fleet of vehicles, that in itself would be a huge cost. So there’s no guarantee that by doing it ourselves this would give us better value for money.”
She added: “Where there is an in-house colleciton, they can’t attract staff at all and they are struggling big time on doing there collections. That, of course, is a reputational issue for the council, not for the provider.
“We will look at value for money and whether we can afford to buy a fleet of vehicles. This isn’t a no-option proposal, it’s very much a proposal to extend to enable us to do that work.”
Councillors discussed the proposal during a meeting on Monday July 19.