THE former leader of Sheffield Council today lifted the lid on a bitter row between the authority and the city’s waste operators Veolia.
Coun Paul Scriven claims the private firm is interested only in cutting services in pursuit of profit following a £523,000 budget cut this year.
He said it needs to ‘wake up and put service before profit’.
He contrasted it with other big council contractors, Kier and Capita, which he said were ‘prepared to reform to maintain front line services’.
Coun Scriven’s attack comes after months of complaints from residents over recycling cuts.
And it reveals a deep rift between the council and Veolia, which has a contract to handle the city’s waste for the next 25 years.
The problem is so severe that the new Labour administration has launched a cross-party review of the waste service, which has started meeting to debate its future.
Coun Scriven, who is now a Lib Dem backbencher after Labour won May’s elections, said: “Veolia only wants to talk about cost rather than reform.
“I pulled in one of the directors to read him the riot act in terms of the appalling way they were blocking productivity changes.
“We can’t get out of the contract because it would end up in the courts, but the sooner they wake up and put service before profit, the better it will be for Sheffield
“Veolia was changing, but since Labour took over there are signs they are being allowed to slip back into their old ways. I hope that isn’t allowed to happen.”
But Veolia says because of the council’s funding cuts it can only afford to run a new green waste collection between April and November.
And it also says it cannot provide reusable sacks, collect more than six bags per household, or give a specific collection day.
Householders are told to leave green bags out on the street at the beginning of a specified week each month.
But that has led to complaints that the bags are unsightly and cause obstruction.
A Veolia Environmental Services spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with Sheffield Council to help it deliver financial savings through service changes. As part of this we are being as flexible as possible.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “Unfortunately, Coun Scriven’s comments simply expose the Lib Dems’ inability to negotiate with Veolia and get a good deal for the local taxpayer.
“The fact is that under Coun Scriven’s leadership of the council, the previous administration’s relationship with Veolia completely collapsed.
“The new Labour administration has been left to pick up the pieces of the Lib Dems’ incompetence regarding waste management. Because of the mess left by the Lib Dems we’ve asked a cross-party group of councillors to undertake a comprehensive review of the waste service.
“Our priority is to get the most effective waste service possible that meets people’s needs and expectations and provides the best value for money for local people.
“That’s what we’ve asked the review to focus on.”