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Agenda item

Waste, recycling and street cleaning: performance update


At the invitation of the Chair, residents shared their experiences of the waste collection and street cleaning in the Merton borough.


Rudi Leoni: Transparency is needed. Merton have refused to publish the deductions and performance of Veolia. FOI exists to protect public funds. IT is still being used as an excuse. Deductions are still being negotiated. Missed collections are still being marked as complete.


Chris Larkman: Good news is streets are cleaner since the introduction of the wheelie bins. Bad news is the end of roads where there are flats, the rubbish is much worse.


Mark Gale: The system doesn’t work. In October road sweepers were halved. The Merton website for reporting issues crashes constantly and Veolia claim not to have received many reports. Surgical needles were left for four days in St Helier.


Mike Nash: We have had to pay someone privately to deal with weeds that are over a meter high. What happened to the weed killers, we used to have them? I have filmed the dust cart driving down the road and then turning straight back around and sent this to my Councillor.


James Leek: I have already circulated fifteen to council officers. Larger households have overflowing bins. The waste is getting better but the streets are bad. Need more humans with brooms. Drains are blocked. Online reporting systems need to be improved.


Michael Marks: Toilet breaks for staff aren’t adequate as crews often relieve themselves in the alleyway. Recycling boxes are too small. Bins are overflowing.


Tom Walsh: Sustainable Merton are looking forward to working with Merton. We employ fifty community champions. Last year we ran a plastic free Merton campaign. Subsequently a lot of companies changed their usage of single use plastics. Heading towards a zero waste society should be the Council’s goal. The Council should double their effort to lobby government to address this. And a ban on single use plastics should be part of the licence granted for public events.


Marie Davinson: Millions of pounds of resident money to implement the new wheelie bin system, yet there has been no improvement with regards to the amount of litter and fly tips left on our streets.

There are many issues: Fly tip hotspots need better monitoring, investigation and enforcement.

Leaves blocking drains, confusion over collection days which is not helped when old signs displaying the former collection day are left up in streets months after the change of day, Street bins are not being emptied frequently enough. It seems that the only time action is taken is when a resident or councillor speak directly with a Veolia manager. Are Merton Council's own procedures the blockage in the system?

Frequently the same problem has to be reported numerous times. Do Veolia even receive these reports? They certainly don’t appear to have access to location details from Merton’s SRQ numbers.


Dan Goode: Shocking fall in street cleanliness, Keep Britain Tidy stresses that a littered environment encourages more litter. Residents endlessly report waste, there is tacit support from Councillors.


The Chair asked Scott Edgell (General Manager, Veolia) to respond to the points raised.


Scott Edgell commented;


·         I agree there is a problem with flats and it is not uncommon. Though it is important to mention that there have been a number of issues with residents presenting their waste at the wrong time which has increased the problem.


·         The use of the Bushey road alleyway as a toilet is completely unacceptable and I will be investigating.


·         We will be inspecting the weeds. We have already increased the sprays from two to three and the whole service is under review, including whether the chemicals in use are effective enough.


The Chair reminded the Panel before we proceed to questions that the scrutiny of the contract is being performed by the Financial Monitoring Task Group.


Cabinet Member for Environment and Street Cleanliness, Mike Brunt, requested to introduce Scott Edgell formally to the Panel.


“I welcome the opportunity to bring this to Scrutiny. Last time we were here it was on the point of roll out. 68,000 households now have a new refuse service. Three quarters of those have a new collection day. There was a shortfall of delivery of containers and we failed in delivering on time.  We addressed these issues swiftly in partnership with Veolia.

Each month over half a million containers are emptied. We have had a 58% increase in food waste recycling. A 20% increase in garden waste and an almost doubled amount of assisted collections.

We are dealing with an unprecedented growth in fly tipping, which is an epidemic across the country. We have taken on additional inspectors to manage this and we are working on a better I.T system as we are aware residents would like feedback after reporting an issue.


Chris Lee concurred that the service isn’t where we want it to be but the direction of travel is heading the right way. We have only published a limited amount of performance data so far, because we cannot publish financial deductions when they are unresolved as this is commercially sensitive.

We are not satisfied with the online reporting system, but we expect it to improve over the coming months. We are working with Veolia re; enforcement and plan to focus our attention on those households that need extra attention


It isn’t as simple as it may seem to catch the perpetrators of fly tipping and tracking down and bringing these people to law is beyond the capacity of other London boroughs also.


The Chair asked the panel members for any questions of clarification. In response to member questions, Scott Edgell clarified the following;

·         A panel member asked how Veolia management train the front line staff? What feedback do staff give to management? Scott Edgell responded that training is important to Veolia. All employees are given a full induction on safety, manual handling, vehicles and the role and expectations. With regards to feedback, Echo is our main system. Frontline staff provide us with a lot of feedback. We also have two environmental managers who check on the standards of work.


·         The relationship works well between the Environmental managers, Neighbourhood Client Officers and Contract Manager. They have a daily AM call and debrief at the end of the day. We don’t offer incentives to staff to report issues. Staff are expected to do the job correctly and have a team ethic.


·         We would like to have consistent crews on the same routes, but due to leave and training that is not always possible.


·         I apologise to those residents who didn’t receive their bins on time. We didn’t do enough to manage expectations, but the roll out was not shambolic.


·         A panel member asked when improvements in IT will materialise. Chris Lee answered that the integration of CRM to Echo is nearly complete.


·         Agreed that bags left on the street encourages further fly tipping. We are asking managers to do ride-alongs with crews, we regularly review social media and we have designed new pick up points.


·         A panel member asked whether the Council will review charging for bulky waste collections. Residents are expected to drive to Garth road, but at the same time, discouraged to drive.

Mike Brunt explained that he has had conversations with other Local Authorities to analyse whether the charge has any effect on fly tipping. The boroughs have reported they have seen no reduction regardless of whether they have set a fee or not.


·         There is a split responsibility between ID Verde and Veolia for street verges.


·         We haven’t changed the collection for communal properties, they have always received a weekly collection



Scott Edgell was thanked for his attendance and agreed to return in six months with an update.



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