Independent review report supported unanimously

At an extraordinary council meeting on 17 February our councillors unanimously supported an independent review to establish Serco’s performance against the requirements of the disrupted waste and recycling contract here in the Derbyshire Dales.

Allen Graham, who was appointed in November by the District Council to undertake the review, has submitted his report and recommendations.

The report [PDF 841KB], which finds there has been “an incomplete delivery of the contract requirements by Serco”, is available to view on the council's website at 

Mr Graham, a former Chief Executive of Rushcliffe Borough Council and Local Government Association (LGA) Peer Review Chief Executive Lead, attended the 17 February meeting to present his findings and recommendations to the Council.

The extraordinary meeting was broadcast live on the District Council’s YouTube channel here:

On the procurement of the current contract, which started in August 2020 following on from a previous eight-year contract with Serco, the report is unequivocal in its support of the approach taken by the District Council. Mr Graham writes:

"An independent review of the documentation and procurement process has concluded that the contract specification included within the package was formulated and communicated to bidders in a clear and transparent manner.

"The review has not highlighted any evidence that the contract awarded was not fit for purpose and the decision to award the contract was clearly supported by a majority of the Council."
His conclusions in respect of the implementation of the contract find:
  • The evidence provided both verbally and in writing during the course of this review came to the conclusion that there had been an incomplete delivery of the contract requirements by Serco.
  • As a result of key components not being fully implemented or delivered there had been an undoubted impact on service delivery resulting in an accelerated and unmanageable volume of customer enquiries and complaints
  • The volatile environment caused by the pandemic impacted significantly upon the strategic and operational capacity of both the contractor and the authority. In particular the escalation of household waste resulting from changing behaviours, combined with vehicle delays and staff shortages, had placed additional pressures that required close management by the contractor
  • The remote working environment imposed on both parties appeared to have been significant in disrupting the effective man-management of the contract in its early stages as key service areas were disrupted and stretched to react to competing and variable priorities
  • Evidence presented provided reassurance that senior management remained responsive to supporting the Waste and Recycling Manager, providing clear advice and direction within the first three months of the contract commencement
  • Officers of Derbyshire Dales District Council, and in particular the waste and customer service teams, had continually gone the “extra mile” to protect the authority’s reputation, resolve customer complaints and assist the contractor in recovering the situation
Mr Graham states in the report that his review had established that once the seriousness of the situation became apparent the council’s Chief Executive and Director of Community and Environment had taken proportionate and necessary steps to communicate effectively with the senior management of Serco.

This included engaging and communicating with members of the authority, identifying the root causes and attempting to negotiate remedial steps to establish an emerging recovery plan.

His report adds that the District Council had not yet received the benefits of the whole of the contract as intended and that it would be necessary to evaluate and agree the financial and contractual consequences caused by non-delivery of the key deliverables of the contract while considering the future impacts of any customer behavioural changes that continue as the pandemic hopefully recedes.

Mr Graham says Serco were responding and had acknowledged in a discussion during his visit to their depot that they “took the eye off the ball” and the contract had not been supervised and managed to the level they set themselves.

A recovery plan is now in place - an essential first step to prevent further deterioration and secure improvement for residents.

A separate technical evaluation of Serco’s performance has been concluded and supports the conclusions of this review.

In his recommendations, Mr Graham states:

1. That Derbyshire Dales District Council continue to maintain and further the dialogue utilising the formalised contract management arrangements

2. That the dialogue is extended to include:
         a. Resolving existing performance and payment discrepancies to ensure these are equitably resolved taking into account the Council’s additional support commitments
         b. An agreement regarding how any re-basing required to take account of changes in customer behaviour caused either by the pandemic or the emerging sustainability agenda will be addressed
         c. Establishing the intentions and approach for both parties to ensure the ongoing fulfilment of the contract

3. That the Council also communicates the importance and urgency of resolving the MIS and round optimisation issues through a clear and robust plan

4. That the Corporate Leadership Team re-establish a corporate approach to overseeing the critical success factors of implementing the contract, reacting to unsatisfactory performance and advising Members of on-going options for future delivery

5. That consideration is given to enabling customer service staff access to relevant data and options to escalate and remedy customer queries.

6. That a review of the corporate management capacity is undertaken to ensure that future transformational and modernisation projects are adequately resourced.

View the full report [PDF]
An independent review to establish Serco’s performance against the requirements of the disrupted waste and recycling contract in the Derbyshire Dales will be debated by councillors at an extraordinary meeting on 17 February.

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