Dales councillors have unanimously agreed to send the authority’s new waste collection contract out to market.
At the final meeting of Derbyshire Dales District Council before this May’s elections, members agreed that now was the time to make a ‘significant decision’.
Councillors said that it was only right that the decision, which would see a private firm continue to run the authority’s bin collection service for eight years from next August, had gone through such ‘intense scrutiny’.
There were still concerns that contractors would struggle with the Dales ‘topography’ – with narrow lanes, steep hills and generally hard-to-reach properties.
When the existing contract with Serco started in 2012, the authority faced issues with the size of the bin lorry fleet – unable to squeeze through all the tight lanes of the Dales.
This, councillors say, lead to a lot of disruption and headaches and must not be repeated.
Whichever private firm is chosen, officers say, they will be questioned heavily on their design and choice of bin collection fleet – to avoid repeating history.
The council is set to pay £2 million for the new fleet of lorries and will encourage private firms to make technological improvements to vehicle designs – including 360 degree cameras.
Council leader, Coun Lewis Rose, said: “It is a significant decision, it has been discussed on several occasions before, we know it is a decision that has got to be taken.
“It has got to be gotten on with. There has been a lot of work put into this decision and I am sure there is a lot more to come.”
Coun Mike Ratcliffe said: “The waste and recycling contract is our most important statutory service and has a direct interface with residents and it is only right to have put this contract through such intense scrutiny by members and the community.
“Now it is time to put it out to the marketplace.
“We have financial constraints but we need a service which fulfils the level of quality demanded of us.
“I am sure we are going to come back with something that meets the quality that this council needs.
Coun Martin Burfoot said: “There is a need to supply an excellent service to residents and the devil really is in the detail – the issues which residents will really pick us up on.
“The charge for garden waste is unknown at this stage and is to be decided after the tender is received. That will raise various doubts in residents’ minds – deciding whether to pay it or not.
“The present service, although excellent, it is the little things that residents worry about.
“The topography of the Dales does not lend itself to an easy collection regime.”
The current deal with Serco costs the district council £1.9m per year and the authority has been on the hunt for a replacement – with eight firms currently being courted.
It says that the current service cannot remain the same due to changes in the market, including the value of recyclable material and continued pressures on the council’s finances.
The authority says that the current contract would cost £2.5m a year if it was awarded under current market pressures, which would be ‘unaffordable’. The council’s total annual budget is around £35 million a year.
In November, councillors agreed to bring in an annual charge for garden waste pick-ups – with the national average charged by councils being £40 a year.
If introduced, they say that this could bring in an extra £454,000 a year – offsetting the cost of the contract itself.
Meanwhile, the potential change to make residual waste pick-ups three-weekly instead of fortnightly, remains on the table, but midway through the proposed eight-year contract (2024).
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service