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Lib Dems call-in Tory cabinet's waste contract decision

November 20, 2020 10:19 AM
Councillors Jeremy Hilton and Declan WilsonLiberal Democrat councillors on Gloucester City Council have launched a "call-in" of the ruling Conservative administration's decision to rule out taking waste services back under direct council control - accusing them of "political bias".
At a meeting of the cabinet last week, Tory councillors rejected the option of bringing household bin collections, recycling, street cleaning and grounds maintenance back in-house - claiming the move was "unaffordable".
Currently these services are provided by Amey under a controversial 15-year contract which is due to run until 2022.
Instead the council cabinet wants to decide between extending the contract with Amey, who are due to be taken over by Urbaser Ltd, or using waste company Ubico, which runs collections and street cleaning in other parts of Gloucestershire.
The cabinet has delayed a decision until the end of January next year to allow Urbaser - who operates the Javelin Park incinerator in partnership with Balfour Beatty - to finalise its offer to the council.
Now five Liberal Democrat councillors have submitted a call-in notice to the council, meaning the overview and scrutiny committee will review the cabinet's decision to rule out taking waste services back under direct control.
Among the grounds cited by the Lib Dems are:
- The dismissal of the in-house option and the retention of extending the Amey contract is a reflection of political bias by the Conservative administration.
- Officers and consultants looking at the various waste contract options did not have all the information available to fully cost each proposal.
- The benefits of an improved service to residents from a directly-run waste service is not considered.
- No one has considered that a directly-run service offering staff better pension and annual leave entitlements may lead to a more stable and enthusiastic workforce.
Lib Dem group leader Councillor Jeremy Hilton, who is behind the call-in, said: "The Conservative cabinet has ignored the advice of the overview and scrutiny committee because of political dogma, as they are infatuated with contracting out services to the private sector.
"Scrutiny said a five-year extension to the Amey contract should be ruled out and the in-house bid be retained as an option until a final decision is made.
"The current services provided by Amey are just not good enough and there have been many well publicised problems with the contract.
"The leader of the council has previously described Amey a 'nightmare to work with' and also said the contract was 'one of the worst I have ever seen'.
"If extending the Amey contract is to remain on the table, then so should the option to take waste services back under direct council control.
"We fully support further consideration of the Ubico option, which would give the city council more control over the standards of services."
Councillor Declan Wilson, who has also signed the call-in, added: "We are concerned that handing Urbaser the waste contract could be a really bad decision for the people of Gloucester.
"The Tories on the county council awarded Urbaser and Balfour Beatty the contract for the Javelin Park incinerator - despite huge protests locally about it being a massive white elephant.
"Then we saw costs spiral out of control, rising from £500 million to £633 million.
"We fear the council taxpayers of Gloucester will be saddled with a large bill while the residents of the city are stuck with a service that's just as bad now as it has been for years under Amey."