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Agenda item

Call in: South London Waste Partnership - Procurement of Waste Collection and Related Environmental Services (LOT 1 - waste collection)


The call-in was presented by the signatories.


Key points made by Councillor Holden:

·         Concerned about the introduction of wheeled bins, fortnightly residual waste collections and the rush with which these are being introduced - will damage the local community notably Wimbledon;

·         The administration has no mandate for the change as was not included in its 2014 manifesto;

·         Task groups rejected wheeled bins in 2005 and 2011;

·         The stated 10% saving to be achieved fails to account for the capital funding required for the rollout of wheeled bins and new bin lorries;

·         There has been no consultation with residents and not enough done to consider the needs of disabled and elderly residents as well as staff and requirements around TUPE; and

·         Cabinet needs to reconsider its decision based on providing residents with greater choice and consultation.  The weekly residual waste collection should be retained and other savings considered.


Additional points made by Councillor Grocott:

·         No evidence provided that the proposed waste collection solution will achieve the claimed changes in resident behaviour, increase the use of food caddies and/or lead to more recycling;

·         Residents are not provided with any choice in the number and size of containers that will be needed for the proposed waste collection service.  Advice is not provided on how these can be stored; and

·         Residents will get half the service for a 10% saving.


Councillors Holden and Grocott answered questions from members:

·         An additional £4m capital funding for vehicles and wheeled bins will be required which has not yet been approved;

·         Requested to understand at what point the administration decided to change its policy and introduce wheeled bins;

·         The focus on Wimbledon reflects the level of correspondence received from this part of the borough and the fact it has a large number of flats and smaller houses making wheeled bins difficult to accommodate;

·         The focus on the shift to fortnightly residual waste collections reflects this that weekly collections are highly valued and the aspect of the current service most mentioned by residents; and

·         The Lavender Fields pilot is considered inadequate because the waste collection service trialled was different from that now being proposed.  It featured weekly residual waste collections, comingling of recycling and was based on a small and unrepresentative sample of Merton households. 


The following additional comments were made:

·         Councillor Southgate, as Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, agreed to look at the process of providing documents requested in the call-in form through the meeting agenda;

·         Councillor Uddin noted new vehicles would have to be purchased in any event and are not necessitated by the LOT 1 contract.  Also, that fewer replacement vehicles are needed because of the contract.


The Commission then heard from a series of requested witnesses and speakers.


Key points from Terry Downes, GMB representative:

·         TUPE is not being applied during the competitive tendering process.  This is open to legal challenge by the GMB;

·         Nonsensical to outsource services if cost savings can be achieved by the in-house team;

·         Outsourcing will lead to longer shifts and extended working hours;

·         The specification still hasn’t been provided making it impossible to compare on a like-for-like basis with the existing in-house service; and

·         Wheeled bins did not reduce rates of staff sickness during the Lavender Fields pilot.


Key points Ruth Baber, trustee of Sustainable Merton:

·         Wheeled bins are the wrong size; providing two of equal size potentially gives residents the message that it is okay to have as much residual rubbish as recycled paper and card.  Spare capacity in both might lead to rubbish being placed in the wrong bin;

·         Storage and access a problem for many not just disabled residents.  Concern that many won’t be able to cope with the complexity of the proposed solution;

·         An education programme is needed to increase recycling and decrease use of landfill;

·         Concerned about aesthetics; five containers will clutter streets; and

·         Requested a street cleanliness performance measure.


In response to member questions, Ruth Barber added:

·         Debatable if the Lavender Fields pilot showed the proposed solution will increase recycling because the bins used for this were smaller and recycling was comingled; and

·         Consultation with residents needs to put further information in the public arena and give the reasons for recycling including how this decreases the costs of waste services.

Key points from Dan Goode, founder of Merton Matters:

·         In 2010, Merton was named as the dirtiest borough in London with 49% of byways substandard.  This should be tackled with a joined-up strategy;

·         Wheeled bins are not the solution because the majority of street litter does not come from residual household waste.  Typically this is alcohol and soft drink bottles, fast food packaging and cigarette waste;

·         Litter breeds litter; cleanliness encourages the majority;

·         A five container solution (some with no lids allowing spillage) will add to the clutter and disorder;

·         Street litter bins are not being emptied regularly.  Reported that Morden Hall Road has not been swept for five weeks but this was denied by the council when raised; and

·         The proposed solution will not address the issue of street litter.  Funding should be used to increase collections.


In response to member questions, Dan Goode added:

·         Wheeled bins have not had an impact on street cleanliness in other boroughs because street litter is not the waste that goes into wheeled bins.  This opinion is based on his own volunteering experience.  This solution is not cost effective because it isn’t treating the root cause.  It is cheaper to work with residents.  Cited the example of Sheffield Council working;

·         Agreed some street waste comes from ripped bags due to foxes.  However, this would be better addressed by use of food caddies; and

·         Merton has an ingrained littering culture.  This solution is taking money away from addressing the littering issue.


Key points from Paula Baily, operations manager, Age UK Merton:

·         95% of older residents she has spoken to over the last week don’t know about the new waste scheme.  Once explained, all objected.  Highlighted the issues those with dementia and memory problems may have with the complexity of the scheme;

·         70% of those questioned don’t want to participate in the new scheme.  Consider the containers too larger for their needs, irresponsible and an over provision;

·         Aesthetics are important: no one wants all the containers in their front garden; and

·         Containers are too difficult to move.  This is informed by experience of the garden waste scheme which was much demanded but older residents have found the bin is too heavy to move.  To put this into perspective there are 2,250 households in Merton with a resident aged 85+, 15,500 aged 65+ (of which 7,700 are single person households).


In response to member questions, Paula Bailey added:

·         Consulted with approximately 40 older Merton residents to inform this evidence; and

·         Not aware of the council’s assisted collection scheme and does not know any individual using it.


Key points from Andrew Boyce, local resident:

·         Proposed solution about saving money and not meeting needs;

·         There has been no consultation across the borough and there is a lack of awareness of the scheme;

·         Doesn’t see how a five container solution can be more efficient; and

·         Believes there will be difficulties collecting waste using wheeled bins because of parked cars.


In response to member questions, Andrew Boyce added:

·         Has tried to address difficulties in getting his recycling collected by emailing the council and Councillors.  Doesn’t know why the collection hasn’t happened.


Councillor Garrod, Cabinet Member for Cleanliness and Parking, responded to the call-in and evidence provided by witnesses and speakers by making the following key points:

·         Most of the points raised have been addressed previously through pre-decision scrutiny and Full Council;

·         Happy to provide reassurance to residents; providing an assisted collection service and the imposition of penalties on the contractor for scattered litter are explicitly part of the contract;

·         Willing to extend direct dialogue to other groups including those speaking today;

·         The information presented today has been skewed;

o   Food waste and recycling will be collected weekly;

o   Flats with Eurobins will have weekly collections and more frequently if necessary; and

o   Flats over shops and others where impractical will not have wheeled bins.  This includes any property with three or more steps.

·         About to start a fine tuning exercise where issues will be addressed in detail;

·         From the last resident survey, litter is the number one issue with 50% of all litter resulting from the existing waste service.  This is the issue that the administration is acting to fix;

·         Merton is one of the last remaining boroughs in London without wheeled bins;

·         Residents have nothing to fear; Merton’s streets will be cleaner, there will be a £2m saving and the capital spend on replacing bin lorries would be required whether or not the scheme was implemented;

·         The contractor will be required to deliver a resident education programme including home visits with similar in Ealing resulting in requests for 7,000 additional food caddies; and

·         This will bring Merton’s waste services into the 21st century by using digital communication systems to make the service more efficient and allow workers to report faulty street lighting, the need for an assisted collection, fly tipping etc.


In response to member questions, Councillor Garrod added:

·         Using a wheeled bin to collect and store paper and card will keep it dry and maintain its value for recycling;

·         As only appointed to Cabinet during the last two weeks in May 2016, he cannot give the information requested about when Cabinet made the decision to support the adoption of wheeled bins;

·         The pilot provided a sample of the borough and allowed information and knowledge to be developed;

·         Flats were not included in the Lavender Fields pilot because such dwellings will not be getting wheeled bins under the scheme; and

·         The pilot finding of 89% satisfaction with wheeled bins is relevant to the proposed scheme.


Cormac Stokes, the Head of Street Scene and Waste, added:

·         The stated 10% saving cannot be guaranteed but is likely to be in excess of this;

·         Conducted an open consultation with the market.  The solution with the greatest saving is the also the most advantageous because it reduces the reliance on landfill whilst increasing recycling;

·         All the costs of introducing the scheme have been factored in including the education programme and it is still geared to save £2m per annum after year 2.  The capital spend will be £6m over the first eight years of the contract to buy wheeled bins and vehicles;

·         Unsure of the number of residents benefitting from an assisted collection.  However, only one person (0.1% of the sample) joined the scheme as a result of the Lavender Field pilot when assisted collections were heavily promoted.  This indicates that the scheme is already well utilised;

·         The contract stipulates that the application of the assisted collection scheme will be at a cost borne by the contractor even if this is subject to an increase in demand; and

·         Additionally, the price of the contract cannot go up unless it has been based on false assumptions provided by the council.  Highlighted that assumptions about property types were made by the contractor and there is no risk to the council based on this variable.


The following additional comment was made:

Councillor Jones: the report on the Lavender Fields pilot came to the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel.  This noted that 89% of participants were happy with wheeled bins, 95% found them easier to use and 81% reported streets were cleaner than before the trial.


Members then discussed their response to the call-in:

·         Councillor Moulton: not satisfied with the answers given to the main points of the call-in; no consultation, no proof of advantage, no evidence of proportionality or that equalities have been adequately addressed, there has been a lack of openness and there is no clarity on desired outcomes.  Recommended referring the decision back to Cabinet;

·         Councillor Williams: highlighted the lack of consultation.  Stated he has no objection to wheeled bins but does have an objection to forcing these on uninformed residents.  No clarity on when this decision was made.  No information has been provided on the impact on the elderly.  Requested an open and transparent consultation.  Merit in asking Cabinet to look at this again and hold a better consultation;

·         Councillor Badenoch: information needs to be provided on the impact of alternative approaches on savings.  For example, what effect comingling of recycling will have on the savings so that a fully informed decision can be made; and

·         Councillor Pearce; there is a duty on Councillors to safeguard the council’s finances which is subject to ever more cuts.  Recommended not referring back but moving forward as best as possible.


Councillor Williams seconded Councillor Moulton’s recommendation to refer the decision back to Cabinet.  A vote was taken by show of hands with three votes for and six against.  The recommendation was not agreed.


Councillor Southgate suggested adding an informative to the decision which was agreed by members.


Councillors Uddin and Brunt applauded the work of Friends Groups and highlighted the need to work partnership to address littering in the longer term.


RESOLVED: Not refer the matter back to Cabinet meaning that Cabinet’s decision on the LOT 1 of the South London Waste Partnership shall take effect immediately.  Also to add the following informative:

·         Cabinet to ensure all residents are informed of the forthcoming changes to waste services; and

·         Cabinet continue to take appropriate steps to change the culture in Merton so all residents take pride in a litter free environment.


Supporting documents: