At a special meeting on Wednesday (18 December) broadcast live on the District Council’s YouTube channel (below), councillors also agreed by 27 votes to 2, with 4 abstentions, to approve a new charge for collecting garden waste, to be introduced in April 2021.
The charge will generate funds to offset the cost of the new waste and recycling service, which is set to rise by £1-million a year to maintain service levels for Dales residents with the continuation of weekly food waste collections, together with collections fortnightly of dry recycling and fortnightly of residual household waste that can't be recycled or composted.
The cost for garden waste collections will be £50 per bin per year - the equivalent of £1 a week - with an early bird offer of £35 on purchases made before 31 January 2021. Residents will have to opt in to the service and will not be obliged to take part.
Local councils do not have a legal responsibility to collect garden waste, but until April 2021 the service will continue to be free of charge for all 34,000 households in the Derbyshire Dales.
Councillors heard at Wednesday’s meeting that the cost of the new waste and recycling contract is significantly more expensive than the current arrangement, which was tendered at a time when the market was more buoyant and contractors enjoyed higher prices for the recyclable materials they collected. Vehicle prices, fuel costs and wage bills have also risen substantially since the contract was last tendered.
The cost of the current waste collection contract is £2.1 million per year – on average around 75p per household per week – but will rise to £3.1 million for the new contract.
The rising cost of the contract comes at a time when the District Council needs more money than ever to continue to provide frontline services.
The level of general government grant the authority receives is forecast to reduce from £3.5m (32% of funding) in 2013/14 to only £0.4m (4% of funding) in 2020/21. So even after making £2.7m savings since 2014, the District Council has to find additional ongoing savings or increased income of £400,000 a year by 2020/21.
Councillors praised the detailed review of the waste and recycling contract carried out by officers and heard that there was no evidence to support fears that charging for garden waste collections would lead to an increase in fly-tipping.
In its review the District Council had benchmarked other similar local authorities that had gone from free to charged collections of garden waste and modelling had revealed that while there was likely to be an initial reduction of 27% in the tonnage of garden waste collected, the majority of this would go instead to household waste recycling centres and a smaller proportion would be used for home composting. Modelling also suggested that the tonnage would gradually increase year on year as more residents bought into the scheme.
Industry experts Eunomia, which have been working with the District Council on its review, predict a 43% initial uptake of the garden waste service, with subscribers being able to pay online while accessing ‘added value’ information and offers, to help encourage uptake.
Independent councillor Colin Swindell told the meeting:
"We have to look at this positively. I was sceptical at first but I have changed my mind because I think this is a good thing. The system isn't changing - we are just introducing a charge for green waste, so it's a continuation of what we've got rather than the problems we had in 2012 which resulted from a huge change."
Welcoming the fact that the District Council had not opted to save money by reducing the frequency of residual waste collections, which is happening in other areas of the UK, Councillor Swindell added:
"I did have concerns about fly tipping but having talked to a lot of people they are saying yes it's a shame we have to pay but they wanted to keep the fortnightly residual collection - that was more important to the majority of people. Fly tipping is more likely to happen with a three weekly residual collection than it is with a charge for green waste collections."
Other councillors supported this view, including Councillor David Chapman, who said:
"I have confidence in the social responsibility of Derbyshire Dales residents."
Councillor Mark Salt said:
"Fly tipping is an argument I just can't buy into. You don't see garden waste fly tipped very often if at all. The reason being you can just take it to a recycling centre for nothing. Fly tipping consists of trade waste that can't be got rid of in the main."
Council Leader Councillor Garry Purdy said:
"I want to thank the officers - it's been a long journey and an awful lot of work has been done. This is one of the most important services this authority provides and we have a high reputation. Last time around it was a buyers' market but that is no longer the case, and even with the suggested charge for garden waste collections this council is still going to lose money to supply the same service from 2020 onwards."
Serco, which has been delivering the current service since 2012, has given commitments in the new eight-year contract to reduce carbon emissions and support the local economy.
Carbon emission reductions will be achieved through the use of bio-fuel, hybrid ancillary vehicles, route optimisation, on-board technology that monitors driver behaviour and fuel efficiency, together with the introduction of electric bin lifts.
Serco has also committed to use local businesses for fuel, haulage, depot works, workwear and equipment, and the company estimates that approximately 25% of the annual contract value will be spent in the local Derbyshire Dales economy and through local business.
Derbyshire Dales residents, who have been consulted on two occasions during the procurement of the new service, currently recycle or compost 60% of their waste - an increase of 3% in the past year and the best performance in Derbyshire - and the district’s waste and recycling service has high customer satisfaction.
Subscribers to the garden waste service from April 2021 will continue to have their Christmas trees collected as part of the service, further planning for which will take place over the next six months ready for announcements in summer 2020.
In March this year the District Council set out the requirements for bidders interested in taking over household collections in the Dales, with tenders evaluated in late summer, followed by negotiations with bidders in recent months. There were two final bidders.
For the benefit of residents, Serco will be required to ensure properties continue to have their bins collected on the same day each week, although this may be a different day to the current collection schedule.
To help local people understand the background to the waste and recycling contract process, the District Council has prepared a list of FAQs here.
- The full report to the 18 December special council meeting can be viewed