Councillors have unanimously approved a familiar look to waste and recycling collections as the Derbyshire Dales prepares for a new contract from August 2020.
At a special council meeting on Thursday (29 November), all political parties and independent councillors supported a recommendation by officers that weekly food waste collections continue, together with fortnightly collections of dry recycling and fortnightly collections of residual household waste that can't be recycled or composted.
They also unanimously supported a change to the service, that a charge - yet to be specified - will be made for fortnightly collections of garden waste, bringing the Derbyshire Dales into line with around half of UK councils that now charge residents for this service.
Local councils do not have a legal responsibility to collect garden waste and residents will not be forced to buy into the scheme.
Thursday’s meeting approved the development by March next year of a detailed contract specification ahead of councillors meeting again to give approval to tender.
Since 2012 the waste collection service in the Dales has been delivered by Serco on behalf of the District Council. In advance of the contract ending in 2020, the council has been exploring a range of potential service options. The cost of the current waste collection contract is £1.9 million per year – on average just under 67p per household per week.
But councillors heard that the current contract was tendered at a time when the market was much more buoyant. Subsequently there had been an increase not only in the cost of service provision but also in the level of liability contractors seek to share, while the value of some recyclable materials, such as plastics, had plummeted.
Market testing by the District Council, which is working with an industry specialist consultancy firm, had confirmed being able to afford a like-for-like replacement waste and recycling service was extremely unlikely.
Council Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE told the meeting: “Our challenge is to procure a waste and recycling contract that is affordable whilst meeting residents' needs and statutory recycling targets. That's why we're here and clearly this is once again a very critical decision.
“We're in a totally different climate to 2010/11 when we made the last decision and the recycling market was a lot better than it is currently.
“We all know that we have to be able to afford this service. Much as we'd like to have kept on the service we have that people are very pleased with, the only difference is charging for garden waste, which, as we know, more than 50% of councils are now doing and a lot more will be facing the same decision soon because the service has to be affordable. We have to balance our books.”
Seconding the motion, Opposition Labour group leader Councillor Mike Ratcliffe said: “We have to focus very much on the challenge that was laid before us. This has to be within our financial reach and there were certain reasons why we couldn't continue with the contract we formerly had and why we had to seek new financial parameters for this new contract.
“We had to meet residents' needs - and a very good and extensive consultation took place to ascertain what they were - and to meet statutory recycling targets and indeed improve on them. It has been a very rigorous process, exhausting at times as it should be. The range of questions has been very searching, very challenging, very probing, almost surgical at times. We know from the residents' returns what was expected and to lay out a tender that is meeting those.
“Whilst I acknowledge there has been concern over some of the operational aspects of waste collection I believe the tender process has answered the vast majority of these and we should now move forward towards a new contract."
The forecast rising cost of the waste and recycling contract comes at a time when the District Council needs more money than ever to continue to provide frontline services. Successive central government grant cuts include a further £611,000 reduction for 2018/19.
The level of government grant the authority receives will have reduced from £3.5m in 2013/14 to £0.5m by 2020/21. So even after making substantial savings in recent times, the District Council has to find additional ongoing savings of £700,000 over the next three years.
The meeting also approved that bidders consider the impact of a service variation via a method statement for introducing three weekly collections of residual waste during the contract term – but no earlier than six years from now in 2024 and only if the council voted to do so.
Other key provisos of any potential future three-weekly collection would be that it brought about savings to the council and linked in with the introduction of a free opt-in weekly collection of textiles and absorbent hygiene products – such as nappies - together with communication and education.
The education aspect would include home visits to assist residents and a requirement that the variation would only to be implemented when the number of properties on sack collections in the Derbyshire Dales is reduced.
Dales residents currently recycle or compost 57% of their waste – the best performance in Derbyshire. But the UK is likely to have a legislative target to meet 65% of recycling in the future – and three-weekly collections introduced in other areas of the UK have increased recycling rates.
A total of 2,629 people responded to a survey on possible changes to waste and recycling collections and the report to the 29 November meeting listed the survey findings and feedback from a series of community forums in September.
• 97% of people think recycling is important
• 83% of blue bins are 75% full or more
• 94% of card and paper inserts are full
• 66% use food waste weekly
• 41% of people’s grey bin is not full
• 59% of grey bins full each week