More lorries and more collectors as Council loses patience with Urbaser

More lorries and more collectors as Council loses patience with Urbaser
Changes are to be made to improve rubbish collections in Tonbridge

The main change will see the number of lorries in Urbaser’s fleet doubled and an extra 50 staff being deployed to meet the increased demand.

Last week Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] triggered a penalty clause in the contract, after receiving hundreds of complaints about missed bin collections.

Part of the problem has been a massive increase in the amount of recycling taking place, as the latest contract permits the collection of plastics and glass for the first time.

Refuse collectors have been pointing out repeatedly that the current vehicles are not large enough to cope with the volume of refuse, forcing them to make more journeys.

Urbaser took over collections in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells in September, after a six-month period in which it was supposed to fine-tune its logistics.

The deal, which is worth an estimated £3million a year from each Council, was agreed for an eight-year period. It also includes a separate food waste collection and an opt-in charge for garden waste.

TMBC and Tunbridge Wells have now agreed an action plan to tackle the problems after a three-hour emergency meeting with Urbaser.

The changes will see 20 additional trucks on the road and the 50 extra workers. Urbaser will also switch to new dustcarts which collect either mixed recycling or food waste but not both.

This was identified as a key issue, with new-style combination trucks having been designed to collect mixed recycling such as glass, plastic and metal, with a separate compartment for the food.

And due to what the Council called a ‘higher than anticipated volume of waste’ being collected, the lorries were often filling up before a round was completed, resulting in delays.

Some collection rounds will be reduced in size to make sure they are completed. The handling of data will be improved to help identify and respond to repeatedly missed ‘hot spots’.

Urbaser will use more permanent employees, reducing the company’s reliance on agency staff, while the Council will increase the number of people dealing with complaints.

There will also be more inspectors at depots and on rounds to monitor performance, and rapid response teams will be set up to fix faults on vehicles.

Nicolas Heslop, Leader of TMBC, said: “I would like to thank the team at Urbaser for their positive response to the serious concerns we raised on this issue.

“We are determined to sort the problems and are moving quickly to implement these plans in the coming days.

“On behalf of the Council, I would like to apologise to residents who have had problems with bin collections, but also to assure them that there will be no let-up in our response until a reliable service is being delivered.”

Two days before, TMBC’s Chief Executive Julie Beilby had written an open letter on behalf of both Councils to the Managing Director of Urbaser, Javier Peiro.

She expressed ‘deep frustration with the poor waste collection service Urbaser is providing for our residents’ and added that ‘the time for excuses and apologies was over’.

She said: “We always appreciated that the new waste partnership scheme would take some time to bed in and that some teething problems were to be expected.

“However, we are now three months into the new arrangements and neither Council has seen the necessary improvements, despite numerous assurances at the many meetings that have been held.

“Our residents expect regular and reliable waste collection and are justifiably frustrated that they are not getting it.”

She added: “Neither Council can allow the situation to continue. I am therefore providing notice that having already issued a number of default notices, both Councils intend to trigger financial penalty clauses in the contract in the hope that this focuses minds on this very serious problem.”

And she warned the Councils would ‘not hesitate to continue to impose additional penalties’.

Chris Minnis, Urbaser’s UK Operations Manager, replied: “In response to the letter we received from the Chief Executive of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council we held an emergency meeting with council representatives today.

“Both parties are committed to working together to resolve the situation and we are implementing an action plan immediately to ensure that all residents receive reliable and regular waste collections.”

Urbaser has successfully bid for 11 local waste services contracts in the UK since 2010 and its parent company is the third largest environmental services provider in Europe, also operating in Asia, North Africa and South America.


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