Sheffield talks over waste savings collapse

Bin men emptying domestic waste bins
Bin men emptying domestic waste bins
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TALKS between Sheffield Council and contractor Veolia aimed at making millions of pounds of savings from the authority’s waste management contract have broken down.

Now both parties are set to go to independent arbitration to try to resolve the issue.

The council is understood to be seeking further savings of up to £2 million each year, in addition to the £2.4m reduction agreed due to the switch from weekly to fortnightly rubbish collections.

The council’s contract with Veolia is worth £26m annually, but some aspects have come in for criticism, such as the £200,000 cost of assisted collections - where binmen undertake extra duties by wheeling bins to the kerbside and returning them after emptying if residents are too old or infirm to do it themselves.

Union officials say binmen are expected to empty the same number of bins on each round in the same time, regardless of whether or not there are assisted collections and receive no extra payments, so the service costs Veolia nothing.

Coun Jack Scott, Labour cabinet member for environment, waste and streetscene, said: “The council has continued to try to reach agreement with Veolia on the ongoing financial saving for alternate week black bin collections over and above the £2.4m Labour have already secured.

“Clearly, with the massive cuts in public spending, it is in our interest to make sure we maximise this saving, so we can invest in other frontline services.

“If we cannot reach agreement, we will use the mechanisms in the contract between us to resolve the issue which is an independent arbitration process.”

Tensions between the council and Veolia were revealed in email exchanges with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

One email message sent by the council to Defra on April 23 said: “We know we are stuck in places and need to find a joint direction with Veolia to move forward.”

One said: “Not wanting to frighten Veolia off, would you consider changing some of the language to maintain your bi-partisan position? Slide one, ‘operational savings’, could be partnership opportunities, for example.”

A Veolia spokesman said “We have been in negotiations with the council regarding savings.

“Veolia and the council are in agreement that if a satisfactory outcome for both parties cannot be reached, then the issue will be best resolved through an independent arbitration process.”