Councils restart garden waste services after bailing out struggling contractor

Olympian Louis Smith
RUBBISH SERVICE: Garden waste collections begin next week

The news comes after Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has agreed to pay contractor Urbaser up to £100,000 to get the waste collections back on track.

The garden waste service, which costs subscribers £52 a year, has been suspended since July due to a shortage of HGV drivers.

Urbaser is contracted to both Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) and Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC).

The fortnightly collections were set to generate more than £700,000 a year for TWBC from around 15,000 residents that signed up to the scheme.

But after the service was suspended last year, it has cost the Council £45,000 every fortnight.

One-off collections have been offered to residents, but the service is now to restart properly after Tunbridge Wells council officials agreed a bail out of £14,000 a month for the next six months, excluding VAT.

It could see the Council handover £100,000 over the next six months to Urbaser, which signed a joint contract worth around £3million a year with TWBC and TMBC back in 2019.

The new deal was approved by the Council’s cabinet member for Communities and Wellbeing, Cllr Andy Fairweather. 

It is understood a similar arrangement has been agreed with Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, which is capped at a maximum of £92,100.

Residents in Tonbridge saw their garden waste collections restored last week, while collections begin again in Tunbridge Wells next week starting on Monday (March 21).

Council Leader Cllr Tom Dawlings told the Times: “The decision to suspend the garden waste collection was made last summer when the contractor’s refuse truck drivers were leaving to take better paid jobs elsewhere.

“Our focus needed to be on the core waste and recycling service. Any spare crews have been used to make collections of garden waste to keep addressing the backlog – residents have not been charged for those interim collections.

“As recruitment of drivers and loaders remains difficult in a tight labour market, we have agreed to contribute to some of the contractor’s additional staff costs for a limited six-month period.

“We know that residents want the garden waste collection service reinstated as soon as possible and accept that this is a price we need to pay to achieve that. 

“With staff shortages compounded by absences due to covid, this has been a very difficult time for all waste collection services and I would like to thank subscribers for their forbearance whilst out contractor has not been able to provide the garden waste collection service.”

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