Southend opts against Veolia renewal

Councillors on Southend’s scrutiny committee have rejected a recommended proposal to renew its waste collection contract with Veolia, instead opting to go to the market.

The contract has been held by Veolia since 2015, when an agreement worth a potential 15 years was signed

A report which went before the committee said that while the current deal with Veolia has been “operating well”, it failed to hit the contracted 50% recycling target in 2020/21 and the closure of the Tovi Eco Park means all residual waste is still sent to landfill.

However, the plans are still to be confirmed by the council’s cabinet in a meeting later today, from which the press and public have been excluded.

Veolia’s recycling and waste collection deal with the council began in 2015, under an initial eight year deal due to expire in October 2023 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The contract was valued at £150 million over 15 years, and also included street cleaning, graffiti removal, operation of the Essex borough’s household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), and construction of a waste transfer station.

A report which went before Southend’s cabinet yesterday (24 January) recommended councillors opt to renew the contract and switch from weekly to fortnightly residual waste collections, rather than tender it or bring the service in-house.

However, the scrutiny committee instead opted to put the deal out for tender in order to “test the market”.

Targets

Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “Nationally, we have rightly been set challenging targets to improve recycling rates across the board and we must meet that challenge head on.

The council said any new deal should ‘recognise the popularity’ of the current weekly collection service

“We have set out our commitment of creating a greener future and meeting net zero carbon by 2030, and we face rising waste disposal costs combined with continued financial challenges due to years of central Government funding reductions.

“We also understand that the current arrangements in place are valued by many residents, and as a cabinet we felt that on balance we should opt to go for a full tender exercise.

“This will allow us to test the market, ensure competition and drive value for money for a new contract from late 2023 onwards.

“Whatever happens as part of that process, we must have a collection contract that allows us to meet the 65% recycling target, supports our ambitions to create a greener future and is affordable for local taxpayers.”

Renewal

The council warned that this option was likely to lead to a short-term extension of Veolia’s existing deal.

The committee also agreed that any new contract “should support the move to carbon neutrality by 2030 and comply with the new Environment Act which commits the UK to achieve a recycling rate of 65% by 2035”.

Southend had a household waste recycling rate of 43.7% in the 2020/21 financial year.

Tovi

In the report which went before the council yesterday, it was noted that two significant challenges had arisen during the current contract period.

The council said the closure of the Tovi Eco Park has been a ‘significant challenge’ for the contract

The first was the failure to meet the contractual 50% target for recycling.

Also, the closure of the Tovi Eco park mechanical biological treatment plant (MBT) that was due to receive and process waste from the council means Southend now sends its non-recyclable waste to landfill.

However, the report did say the service has operated “relatively well since the challenges during mobilisation in 2015”.

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