Tuesday, 2 October 2012

More expensive and worse

First the good news.  Much of the refuse referred to in my posts over the last few days has been collected (here and here and here).  There are further overflowing bins in the Southside which will be cleared on Wednesday.

Yesterday I promised a post addressing the causes of the problems.  The changes were addressed in this post last Thursday.  In brief, the changes relate to the introduction of new routes and, for 160,000 residences, fortnightly collections.  In addition, the gradual introduction of food waste collections is under way.

But the background may be of interest to readers.  In the three years up to March this year the Council (SNP/LibDem administration)  invested over £4m in a process inviting companies to bid for three streams of Council services.  One included waste collection.  The Council officers strongly recommended councillors to accept the bid which included waste collection.  Experience was very promising in other councils and the savings on offer were over £10m per year for seven year.  The majority of these savings were contractually underpinned and were based on different working efficiencies, investment by the external company in modern equipment and guaranteed a range of other benefits.

At the last minute the SNP group withdrew its support and the £4+ had been spent to no benefit.  Additionally, the projected savings and benefits were lost.

Council managers were then instructed to make savings in waste management (around £4m per year) and the current changes include those efficiencies.  A sum (£millions) was set aside to invest in making the changes happen.

The present problems come after the end of a two and a half year dispute involving the Council's refuse collectors which ended in November last year.  Over that period there were changes in gradings and wage rates, largely brought on the Council by legal requirements.  I understand current difficulties include a small number of staff who have been reluctant to support the new arrangements.

Doubtless, outsourcing waste collection to another company would have had teething problems.  But it is looking increasingly the case that the current service to the public is both more expensive and worse.

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