North Herts waste partnership ‘not contractually binding’, FOI response implies

PUBLISHED: 15:46 11 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 11 September 2018

Residents have had faced issues with collection since the start of the contract in May. Picture: Danny Loo

Residents have had faced issues with collection since the start of the contract in May. Picture: Danny Loo

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

Confusion has emerged about whether the partnership between North Herts District Council and waste collectors Urbaser is contractually binding.

North Herts District Council leader Councillor Lynda Needham and waste portfolio holder Councillor Michael Weeks with Urbaser staff at the time of the contract launch in May. Picture: NHDCNorth Herts District Council leader Councillor Lynda Needham and waste portfolio holder Councillor Michael Weeks with Urbaser staff at the time of the contract launch in May. Picture: NHDC

Questions have been raised after a Freedom of Information request was submitted to the district council asking about the cost of the food waste collection arrangements included in the contract, which began in May.

In its response, dated August 21, the district council stated: “The contract is not yet complete and negotiations to finalise the contract are ongoing.

“Disclosure would prejudice the commercial interests of the council by compromising its bargaining position. If the requested cost information was disclosed this may, in turn, have a detrimental impact on the cost of the contract to the public.

“Once the contract is completed and contractually binding, the council will be in a position of review the position.”

Councillor Michael Weeks says the partnership is in fact contractually binding. Picture: JP AsherCouncillor Michael Weeks says the partnership is in fact contractually binding. Picture: JP Asher

Asked by this paper to clarify the situation, Councillor Michael Weeks – the district council’s portfolio holder for waste and recycling – insisted the partnership was contractually binding.

In a statement, he said: “NHDC and East Herts District Council are in a joint contract with Urbaser which is contractually binding, and this has been the case since the contract was awarded on November 10, 2017.”

This appears to directly contradict the district council’s FOI response. Urbaser declined to comment.

North and East Herts last year decided to have joint waste collection services to save money, and in November announced Urbaser as the new contractor for a seven-year term.

Since the service was rolled out in May, residents across North Herts have been beset by issues including missed collections and trouble getting in touch to report problems. Things have gone more smoothly in East Herts.

The issues that led to service failures in North Herts will be outlined and discussed at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee next Tuesday, which will also welcome representatives from Urbaser.

North Herts District Council has already met Urbaser to discuss options for improving the standard of service.

Urbaser will be at Tuesday night’s meeting to provide “resource material”, according to a report available in advance.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm next Tuesday at the district council offices in Letchworth’s Gernon Road.

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