The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability submitted a report seeking the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the proposals due to be referred to the Executive in respect of the competitive dialogue procurement for the waste and recycling collection and street cleansing contract due to expire in May 2025. The report was based on outcomes from the Member lead joint working group between East Herts Council (EHC) and North Herts Council (NHC) and identified key service changes affecting the contract specification drafting.
Members were advised that the report covered details of both East Herts Council and North Herts Council changes so that the impacts across the shared service could be fully identified. The key drivers for the services changes were set in the context of the pending national Resources and Waste Strategy and the financial challenges authorities were facing which is exacerbated by inflationary pressures.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that it was anticipated that the proposed changes will secure a more financially and environmentally sustainable service as well as making the joint contract attractive to the market. Members were being asked to consider extended frequency residual waste collections, a transition to smaller 180 litre residual waste bins, weekly separate food waste collections for houses and flats and a cessation of bring site recycling services.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the service proposals would be supported by a major communications plan and additional staff resources to ensure a smooth transition to the new services.
Councillor Rutland-Barsby asked what steps were being taken to ensure that all refuse trucks were sustainable to reduce their carbon footprint. The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that in addition to exploring a more sustainable fleet as part of the procurement process, the Council had also commissioned a report looking at the future fleet requirement for the service in terms of the viability of alternative technologies.
Councillor Devonshire asked if Officers had investigated what electronic refuse trucks were available and could be suitable for the Council. The Executive Member for Sustainability said that he was pleased to say that the council had an electric vehicle demonstration was attended in October 2021 and the East Herts Climate Change Strategy approved by Full Council on 27 July 2022 recognised the need to reduce the reliance on diesel powered refuse vehicles.
Members were advised that the although the use of electric refuse vehicles was increasing it was not yet a viable solution for the council’s refuse and recycling fleet. The pre-engagement work would include discussions in terms of what suitable options the council might be able to consider.
Councillor Goldspink said that, in terms of the new contract, eight years appeared to be a long time and the original contract was for seven years. She asked what had prompted the decision to change the length of the contract and what were the advantages and disadvantages of an eight-year contract.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that a seven-year contract length was historically based on the average life of vehicles. He said that it was now increasingly common for vehicles to have a longer life and electric vehicles lasted longer with fewer moving parts. An additional contract cost saving would be made with vehicles depreciating over a longer period and less frequent contract procurement was better value for money as contract procurement exercises were resource intensive.
Councillor Goldspink asked what would happen if circumstances changed and the council wanted to make changes to the contract. The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that manufacturers were flexible and there was the option to include sub clauses in the contract to ensure some flexibility in terms of frequency of collections.
Councillor Devonshire said that some residents would find three weekly collections to be extremely problematic and he asked how these residents would be helped. He said that it made sense to introduce electrically powered refuse trucks as these could be charged overnight at the depot.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the contract operated at unit rates and a price was paid per collection per bin. He said that the core service was proposed to be three weekly collections except for some residents who received a different service. The council would be reviewing all the policies and residents who had exceptional circumstances would be considered favourably.
Councillor Kemp said that some residents would have three weekly residual collections, and some would have two weekly collections. He asked how this would work and what would be the cost implications.
Councillor Kemp asked for an update in relation to using recycling bins for flats with smaller openings to prevent contamination. He asked if 5 litre food waste collection caddies could be introduced again for residents.
Councillor Kemp asked how food waste collection would be managed in flats and how could recycling be enhanced in flats. He commented on what could be done to avoid bins being filled with compacted decomposing food waste which would be difficult to empty and clean. He asked about the cost implications of introducing separate food waste collections earlier than 2025, either voluntarily or if required to do so by legislation.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that supply of different aperture bins had been difficult with long lead times. He said that the council always tried to inform residents in flats before changing bin provision and any changes on site had to be agreed by any managing agent.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that food waste would be managed in smaller wheeled bins for flats which would be collected weekly. A food waste collection service had been operated by North Herts Council at flats since 2013. The Council would be working managing agents to ensure all flats had sufficient access to recycling.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that there was no proposal to deliver separate food waste collection caddies and some residents would still have caddies from 10 years ago. He confirmed that residents could request a food caddie if required.
The Shared Service Manager (Waste) said that all residents would have their own preferences for disposing of food waste and a lot of residents disposed of this almost immediately into a 23-litre caddy kept outside. She said that the wholescale delivery cost would be prohibitive.
Councillor Rutland-Barsby asked if the council would still support volunteer litter picks. She commented on whether the council would not now have to advertise the contract across the EU following Brexit. The Executive Member for Environment Sustainability said that the only change to the public contract regulations 2015 brought in by Brexit removed all references to the EU. The Shared Service Manager (Waste) said that the procurement set up was broadly very similar to before and the process would attract the companies that were interested.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the council would still be supporting organised litter picking by community groups and would be contributing with the adopt an area scheme for individuals who wished to litter pick in the district.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that introducing additional services mid contract would be expensive and it was already expected that the provision within the medium-term financial plan (MTFP) for 2025 would not be sufficient given the increases being seen in inflammatory costs.
The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that it was advantageous to introduce a food waste collection service alongside the extended frequency residual waste changes as this would ensure a higher resident participation in food waste collections in favour of using the residual waste bin.
The Shared Service Manager (Waste) said that it would be appropriate to provide fortnightly bespoke services for some residents. Councillor Ward-Booth asked how confident the council was that reducing the size of bins would not reduce the levels of recycling. The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the reduction in size of the residual waste bin to 180 litres from 240 litres would encourage residents to recycle more.
Councillor Curtis said that he had a few concerns in respect of shifting to three weekly collections for residual waste collections and the system to be used to determine who would still need a two-weekly collection.
Councillor Symonds asked about the clearance of weeds from pavements and from outside shops. The Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability said that the street cleansing would be included in the new contract and would be monitored on a weekly basis. The Shared Service Manager (Waste) said that weed spraying was currently carried out under the terms of the grounds maintenance contract.
Councillor Curtis proposed and Councillor Devonshire seconded, a motion that the comments and feedback of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in respect of the future service design of the waste, recycling and street cleansing contract be passed onto the Executive.
After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that the comments and feedback of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in respect of the future service design of the waste, recycling and street cleansing contract be passed onto the Executive.