12 March 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Canterbury considers in-house waste service

Canterbury city council is to consider plans to move its waste service in-house once its current contract with Serco expires in 2021.

A report to be considered by councillors this week explained that despite a small difference in costs between the two service options, a move in-house instead of re-tendering would enable the council to “gain full control of services” in times of ‘uncertainty’.

The Kent city of Canterbury

The report said however that the set-up process is complex and such a move would constitute a “major new venture for the council”.

Waste services have been managed by Serco since April 2013, under a contract costing the council around £5.4 million a year.

However, the report adds that as a result of “performance issues” through the life of the current contract, the option of an in-house service “was deemed worthy by this council of further exploration.”

If the council votes against moving in-house two options for seeking a new private contractor are set out. These are to either tender alone, or go in with a joint tender with Dover and Folkestone and Hythe district councils.

The council has suggested that ‘uncertainties’ including upcoming increased recycling targets and potential extended producer responsibility legislation, are partly behind the move and an in-house service may offer greater flexibility.

The annual cost of running a Local Authority Trading Company – LATCo – has been estimated to be £5,748,621, compared with £5,803,512 currently paid to Serco.

The estimated set up costs for the LATCo are £400,000 compared to £180,000 for tendering the contract. A budget of £495,000 in reserves to support this process was outlined.

‘Huge change’

Serco has held the contract since 2013

Commenting on the proposal, the leader of Canterbury city council, Cllr Simon Cook, said: “We have been providing bin collections and street cleaning via a contractor for well over 20 years, so if the committee decides to move to a trading company, it would be a huge change for us.

“With waste in particular, there are a number of changes to national legislation likely to be coming our way in the years ahead, so it’s vital we’re in the best possible position to deal with them.”

When approached by Letsrecycle.com for a comment, Paul Barry, Serco’s regional contract director, said: “We recognise that Canterbury city council are looking at a range of options for the delivery of waste collection and recycling services beyond the end of Serco’s contract and are disappointed that the proposed recommendation is the formation of Local Authority Trading Company. We would like to reassure residents, whatever the final decision, that we are committed to continuing to provide a high quality service level until January 2021.

“We are proud of the service that Serco is delivering to residents across the Canterbury district. Customer satisfaction with the waste and recycling service, conducted by an independent research organisation, shows residents had over an 81% level of satisfaction with Serco’s waste and recycling collections in 2018.”

Among other authorities to set up LATCo waste operations is Peterborough city council. The local authority has this week announced that its new trading company, which takes over waste services from Amey in April 2019, will be called Aragon Direct Services.

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