Hopes for smooth transfer of Wealden waste contract from Kier to Biffa

Biffa is due to take on Wealden's household waste collection contract later this year
Biffa is due to take on Wealden's household waste collection contract later this year

Wealden councillors have raised concerns about potential disruptions to bin collections when Biffa takes over the joint waste contract in June.

The concerns were raised at a meeting of Wealden District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (January 28).

In questions directed to the council’s portfolio holder for waste and economic development Roy Galley, Ninfield councillor Pam Doodes asked for reassurances that the council would be monitoring the contractor’s performance.

Cllr Doodes said: “Now that the contract for the waste collection is coming to an end it seems to be working really well. Collections are being made well [and] on time.

“Could you please confirm that you have managed to persuade Biffa to keep the crews doing the same rounds  because we don’t want to go back to the difficulties when the crews didn’t know the area.”

In response, Cllr Galley said: “We have a provision in the contract, which says the new contractor may not introduce round changes immediately and that it would have to be a consultative exercise. I think we have put a three-month block on that.

“I am encouraged by Kier’s performance over the last couple of months and I’m pleased we’re getting feedback from your residents that it is working. We will hopefully make sure that continues smoothly when Biffa takes over.”

Cllr Galley added that the council is ‘keeping a close eye’ on the performance of Kier as the contract comes to a close.

Meanwhile Cllr Greg Rose (Wealden Independent, Crowborough East) asked whether the council would ‘make a profit’ from the garden waste collection charge.

Cllr Galley said: “There are two choices. Either the taxpayer funds the green bin collection or we charge for it, which we are going to do because it is not a statutory service.

“The modest cost of £50 per year will make us a profit. Obviously the amount of profit depends upon take up and all sorts of other factors.

“But the council is looking for income and anything that can make us a reasonable profit, I think, is quite sensible to keep the taxpayer bill down.”

However Cllr Rose argued it could be seen as a council tax rise ‘via the backdoor’.

In response, council leader Bob Standley said: “Yes, the income is greater than the cost of collecting those bins but what you have got to feed into is the cost of the contract is much higher.

“There is no surplus money, in fact we have had to find extra funds  something like £2m extra.

“Overall, if you take the extra cost of the contract [and] the loss of recycling credits, it is a substantial amount of money which is partly covered by the income from garden waste.

“Yes, that particular part of the service is [income] but overall we are having to put more money into waste collection.”