The city’s new trade and garden waste services were ‘set up to fail’ and helped trigger the current bin chaos, councillors heard last night (October 9).
A multitude of issues big and small, from staff retention through to 1,000 customers not being billed for the new services, has led to the current situation where collections are regularly missed across the city.
But at last night’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, new assistant director of city environment Rachel Chasseaud achieved her goal of getting the green light to separate out the new services – and allow them to run at a profit, which she believes is required to turn the service around.
Mrs Chasseaud told the committee: “There have been issues around reductions in the number of staff in the contact centre. We need to think how to work efficiently.
“All of this is part of the modernisation and what we need to invest in the service and how we do that is with planned funding.
“The key to this is trade and commercial waste which was started in June 2016, this was not set up in a way to gain the income expected by now.
“We are looking at what we need to do with green and commercial waste to make it much more viable and more sustainable.”
Patcham Conservative councillor Lee Wares described the report as ‘open and frank’ with nothing false.
He was critical of the way the commercial services for trade and garden waste were set up describing them as ‘set up to fail’.
Cllr Wares said: “How on earth have we got into a situation where 1,000 customers do not get a bill?
“That’s 1,000 people not being asked to pay for it. That’s £52,000 wasted. It is mind blowing.”
Preston Park Green councillor Leo Littman welcomed Mrs Chasseaud’s proactive response to complaints about missed collections.
But he was critical of 3GS enforcement and said: “I have been contacted about fines, with small businesses getting fines of £300 for putting the wrong cardboard box in the wrong bin or a cigarette end dropped when fly tipping goes unpunished.”
In response to repeated criticism, committee chair and Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said councillors could not micromanage, pointing out councillors set a political direction and officers deliver services.
Cllr Mitchell said: “There is a level of trust between councillors and officers. When we are told something will happen, when it does not happen it is very, very wrong.”
She pointed out setting up the commercial services helped keep the service running and save jobs.
Cllr Mitchell said: “It is no surprise we end up with a service where it’s struggling. We are trying to put it right.
“It is the end of austerity I believe, and that will make an enormous difference.”
South Portslade Labour councillor Alan Robins pointed out for every pound the council received from the government in 2010, by 2020 it would receive 40p.
Rottingdean Coastal Conservative councillor Joe Miller responded by saying other councils manage to deliver refuse collection while dealing with cuts.
Meanwhile, arguments over which administration was worse at running refuse services in Brighton and Hove flew across the chamber.
St Peter and North Laine Green councillor Pete West defended his party’s record after criticism from Labour councillors over the ‘state’ refusing and recycling was left in after their administration, as references were made to the rubbish on the streets during the strike.
He said: “You cannot run away from the statements made during the election that Labour could be trusted to get the basics right.”
Cllr West added: “We’ve had a year of failure and my residents, everyone’s residents, have suffered.”
Committee deputy chair Saoirse Horan (Labour) said: “I feel this points to a systematic issue that hasn’t just come about in two-and-a-half years, but years and years of failure we are rectifying.”
Practical issues were raised as North Portslade Labour Councillor Peter Atkinson asked how new developments, such as 125 new homes in Mile Oak, are factored into rounds.
In response Mrs Chasseaud said rounds are being restructured and looked at as a whole rather than dealing with new housing on an ad-hoc basis.
At the moment some rounds are longer than others and the plan is to make them more equal.
The committee asked for an update on her progress at the January 22 committee.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.