NHDC will launch full inquiry into waste collection chaos

PUBLISHED: 11:27 13 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:51 13 June 2018

The performance of the new bin contractors was discussed at overview and scrutiny last night. Picture: Danny Loo

The performance of the new bin contractors was discussed at overview and scrutiny last night. Picture: Danny Loo

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

The failings of North Herts District Council’s new waste and recycling contractor were debated at an overview and scrutiny meeting last night.

Councillor Michael Weeks, who is responsible for waste and recycling at North Herts District Council. Photo: JP Asher Councillor Michael Weeks, who is responsible for waste and recycling at North Herts District Council. Photo: JP Asher

The consensus at the meeting was that there were many contributing factors that resulted in the difficulties faced by Urbaser, and there will be a full inquiry and report to establish reasons behind the problems.

Councillor Michael Weeks, executive member for waste management and recycling, tried to focus on the positives when presenting to the commitee.

He said: “It’s a significant minority of residents that have had issues and it is getting better.

“Instead of getting 15 or 20 resident queries a day, I’m now getting ‘thank you’ emails as well.

Some garden waste bins have not been collected for three weeks, despite North Herts residents now paying £40 annually for the service. Picture: Danny Loo Some garden waste bins have not been collected for three weeks, despite North Herts residents now paying £40 annually for the service. Picture: Danny Loo

“Urbaser have been throwing tens of thousands of pounds into this contract to get it up and running. They’re doing all they can. They have now fixed the data problems.”

When asked about communication between the council and concerned residents, Councillor Weeks added: “I believe we could have done better with communication, and we will learn from it.”

It was said that one of the issues was that some of the addresses entered by residents opting in for the garden waste collection service were misspelt, which means it did not match any addresses in Urbaser’s system.

Another issue was said to be staffing shortages, with agency staff being hired on the first day of the new contract.

Councillor Steve Jarvis said: “It’s fair to say that there are many areas where we didn’t get answers because they are too busy trying to fix problems to investigate what caused them.

“All these problems were forseeable and clearly the council should have planned to deal with issues of this sort.”
As many as 5,000 households – around 10 per cent of the district – were affected by the rocky transition from Veolia to Urbaser, as much of the local route information was not made available to the council by the previous contract holders.

With regards to the brown bin service, it was suggested that residents label their bins with their door number to help collection staff determine who has paid.

It was also mentioned that those who had paid for the garden waste collection should get an extra month before being asked to resubscribe next year. This is a discussion councillors will have at a later date, following a full report.

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