Falkirk refuse overspend is ‘unsustainable’

Binmen collect the rubbish
Binmen collect the rubbish

A massive shakeup of the bucket collection service could be on the way. Plans which even include ‘binning its own binmen’ to save money are being studied by Falkirk Council.

Over the last 18 months bosses have produced a series of reports for the powerful policy and resources committee aimed at tackling issues including complaints about missed bins and the standard of service being provided and tackling absence levels which have been costing over £3000 a month.

Attempts to improve service delivery by increasing the working week from 37 to 42 hours in return for a pay rise but a cut in the number of permanent staff have so far been rejected and the council admits will never go ahead unless it has 100 per cent support.

Councillors have been told that although the number of households receiving a collection increased slightly to an estimated 71,000 and the number of trade waste premises fell to under 800 last year the cost increased by £1 million to over £5 million last year.

The overspend in the current financial year of nearly £400,000 has been described in the face of a reducing budget as “clearly unsustainable”.

Council leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “Staff are working towards bringing forward improvements to the service and that is extremely positive.”

Councillor David Alexander, leader of the opposition SNP Group, warned: “We don’t want to see this service offered to the private sector because that would pose significant risks. The workers, their managers and the council have to sit down and resolve the issues.”

Stuart Ritchie, the council’s director of corporate and neighbourhood services has drawn up four options to deliver value for money, but understood to favour one which would mean putting the contract for emptying the traditional green, blue and brown bins out to competitive tender while giving council binmen six months to improve their performance.

In his latest report Mr Ritchie claims: “This has the potential for cost savings and service improvement and may be viewed as more acceptable as the assessment shows there is likely to be less disruption to service delivery as it allows the in-house team an opportunity.

“It requires the in-house provider to demonstrate improvement. The council would consider bids received and any improvements and savings these offer compared to any improvements and savings demonstrated by the in-house provider over the procurement period.

“The theory is that where attempts at improvement have already been tried but already failed the introduction of the procurement exercise provides a framework, a timescale and fresh impetus to encourage the required improvement and savings. If this does not happen then the work would be awarded to the successful bidder.”