Bucks blames Veolia ‘reorganisation’ for disruption

The leader of Buckinghamshire council apologised to residents yesterday (23 June) after some in the south of the county experienced “disruption” to their collections.

The council aims to collect all the missed bins “in the coming days”

In an open letter, Martin Tett attributed the disruption to the council’s collections contractor, Veolia, undertaking a “round reorganisation” in the former Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks District areas.

Veolia began a 10-year contract covering household waste collections and street cleansing services in these areas in September 2020, taking over from Serco and Biffa.

In his letter, Mr Tett wrote: “In advance of the round change we were not experiencing a significant issue with missed bins, although Veolia anticipated that there would be some limited and short-term disruption when the rounds were reorganised.

“However, the degree of disruption and its length has far exceeded that which we were led to expect.

“In addition, there have been far too many repeated failures and, in some cases, misleading reports from Veolia that bins have been collected when they clearly have not.”

Mr Tett said the council’s waste team had met daily with Veolia to “escalate cases, resolve issues and demand a recovery plan in which we have confidence” since the scale of the problem became “apparent”.

The council’s priorities are to collect the missed bins “as soon as possible” and put in place “robust measures” to avoid future missed collections, Mr Tett said.

‘Transition period’

A spokesperson for Veolia told letsrecycle.com: “We are aware that some residents have experienced disruption following the recent major changes we’ve made to recycling and waste collection services as there is a transition period whilst our crews get used to new routes.

“We have made arrangements for the waste at this address to be cleared and will monitor the service closely to ensure any further issues that arise are resolved quickly.

“In the meantime, we urge any residents experiencing a delay to please report your missed bin on the Buckinghamshire council website and leave your bin presented for collection as we will return as soon as we can.”

Measures

Mr Tett said the council was aiming to collect all the missed bins “in the coming days” by agreeing with Veolia to dedicate up to 10 extra refuse collection vehicles and crews to focus solely on the issue.

Buckinghamshire has also added 17 staff to its customer service centre to make it easier for residents to contact the council if they have problems. Mr Tett said the issues had shown there were “too few” staff in the council’s customer service teams.

The council has put in place a package of measures to prevent further missed collections “as far as possible”, Mr Tett said. The measures include “reviewing” and “improving” the new rounds to ensure they are “manageable” for crews.

Buckinghamshire has brought two extra garden waste vehicles into use and put another two empty vehicles ‘on call’ to take over if the regular collection vehicles are full before the end of a round.

Mr Tett said Buckinghamshire had dedicated supervisors out on the road to respond to particular issues and had given information packages to crews in areas where they had missed multiple properties, “so we can ensure these properties are identified and not missed again”.

And, Buckinghamshire is holding “detailed” morning and evening briefing sessions with crews to ensure the council knows where any problems have occurred.

Buckinghamshire

Representing an estimated population of more than 540,000, Buckinghamshire council had a household waste recycling rate of 51.2% in the 2020/21 financial year, the most recent available data.

From 1 April 2020, a single, new Buckinghamshire council replaced Buckinghamshire county council and four district councils – Aylesbury Vale, South Buckinghamshire, Wycombe and Chiltern.

In January 2020, letsrecycle.com exclusively revealed there would be a move to harmonise waste services in the area following the move (see letsrecycle.com story).

Veolia won the £235 million deal to collect waste in the Wycombe, Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire areas in April 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Previously, South Buckinghamshire had a contract with Biffa, and Chiltern and Wycombe had a joint deal with Serco.

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