Private collection warning for Falkirk

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Your bins could be picked up by a private firm next year if Falkirk Council’s refuse collection service does not improve.

In June the local authority agreed to seek tenders for the service, while also developing an improvement plan to give the in-house operation a chance to up its game.

At a meeting of the full council last week, members voted to stick to their schedule - despite SNP calls for tendering to be put on hold because of the improvements already being seen.

That will see tender documents going out in February next year with offers evaluated and approved by August 2012.

Opposition members blasted the administration for not standing by staff and expressed fears the level of service would decline if refuse collection was in the hands of a private firm.

The SNP Group’s defeated amendment called for the tendering process to be put on hold until the council had a chance to see the outcome of the improvement plan.

Councillor David Alexander said: “We are talking about major changes being implemented and assessed within six months - it concerns me and it’s something which concerns the workforce as well.

“We are pressing ahead with a timescale where we will go out to tender in a matter of weeks.”

He said Edinburgh City Council had gone down the road of hiring private firms to collect its refuse and was now in a terrible state.

“You will have a workforce who are less motivated than they are now,” he added. “All we are asking is that you step back at this point in time and let’s see the improvement plan implemented.

“That puts the ball in the workforce’s court and allows them to demonstrate to us they can do a better job. Right now they believe Falkirk Council wants their jobs privatised.”

Councillor Steven Jackson said some members of the administration showed a level of hypocrisy.

He said: “How can they support public sector workers on strike and then turn around and say we are going to get rid of public sector workers and bring in private companies?”

Members heard the collection service was expected to be £500,000 over budget, one of the reasons being the level of staff absences and the need to hire agency workers as cover, something that costs the council £8000 a month.

According to the administration, the improvement plan is already showing results - with fewer missed bins and absences reported.

Councillor Craig R Martin said: “The message to workers is quite clear - we have problems like missed bins dropping dramatically, We have seen a massive improvement in the service - it has never been so good and hopefully it will come in under budget.

“I’m more than sure the workforce will deliver a much-improved service and hopefully we won’t need to go out to the private sector.”

Council Leader Craig Martin added: “The direction we are taking is working - there is a real commitment from staff, management and trade unions to come up with improvements.

“We have a £500,000 overspend in our waste management department. I have spoken to the trade unions and everyone believes this is the way forward.

“It’s focusing minds on the most important issue and that’s to make sure the council delivers an improved waste management service to the people of Falkirk.”