The Environmental Services Association has urged local authorities to utilise competition to “drive value for money” for their waste collections.
Speaking at the RWM show on Wednesday (12 September), Jacob Hayler, executive director of the ESA, explained that more councils were moving away from competitive tender procedures for their waste collections, either by bringing services in-house or by using a “Teckal” exemption from the Public Procurement Directives.
The ESA – which represents waste management companies –believes these methods are “taking away” the opportunity for those councils to use the market in order to find and select the “best solutions” to fit their local circumstances.
During the conference, Mr Hayler noted that there are three main challenges local authorities are facing: raising performance to increase their recycling rates; maintaining service levels for their frequency of residual waste collections from households; and reducing costs under “financial pressures.”
In terms of input quality, he said the “reductions” in government funding has prevented money going into communications and household engagement, which has resulted in “materials not being placed into the correct bins.”
Mr Hayler elaborated: “It is no surprise that councils across the country are examining all their options during a period of unprecedented financial challenges for the local government sector. Local authorities are under huge pressure to maintain service levels for their residents, raise recycling rates, and above all to save money. ESA agrees that councils are best placed to decide how they want to manage these trade-offs, but we believe that the market is best placed to deliver value for money.”
“ESA recognises that many local authorities are concerned about locking themselves into inflexible arrangements for up to 10 years for their waste collections. But outsourced collection services can provide any degree of flexibility that councils require, provided that such flexibility is built into the commissioning and procurement of these services up-front.”
Mr Hayler stated that although the outsourced collection option can offer flexibility to LAs, the trade body has noticed some councils have come across some issues regarding procurement. “The problem that we tend to find is that when authorities go out to procurement, they often procure on the basis of the service of their existing arrangements and when they do so advertise in the European Union Journal, we tend to find the procured itself sets boundaries and constraints, which limit the option for contractors to provide that flexibility the local authority would consequently desire.”
He added: “By transferring risks to the private sector, local authorities are able to insulate themselves from unforeseen costs and gain greater certainty over their budgets. The risk for delivering a quality service to cost lies with the contractor and is enforced through its legal obligations under the contract. This provides transparency and accountability in the delivery of the services, and – above all – value for money for local council tax payers.”