Home Local News Bins fiasco contractors Veolia explain rubbish mix-ups to Dover District Council

Bins fiasco contractors Veolia explain rubbish mix-ups to Dover District Council

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Refuse contractors responsible for a six week bins fiasco have faced councillors to explain how efficiency changes led to piles of rubbish on the district’s streets.

In April Veolia swapped the days it collects household rubbish, recycling and food waste on behalf of Dover District Council (DDC). But failings led to bags not being collected on the stated days. Some – piled up outside for weeks – were eyesores and magnets for pests.

Communal bins were a problem. Here were 26 bags of uncollected rubbish. Picture: Lisa Ibrahim
Communal bins were a problem. Here were 26 bags of uncollected rubbish. Picture: Lisa Ibrahim

The company’s general manager David Fitzgerald apologised on Monday to DDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and promised councillors that the worst is over.

Kentonline previously reported how residents blasted the shocking service exacerbated by communication problems when reporting missed collections.

The council published an apology on its website and this week Veolia did the same.

But Cllrs Sue Beer and Cllr Martin Bates said sorry isn’t enough.

Cllr Bates said the fiasco was “reputationally bad” for both Veolia and DDC and added: “one letter on the website is not sufficient.”

Cllr Peter Walker had more then 50 complaints about bins not being collected by Veolia
Cllr Peter Walker had more then 50 complaints about bins not being collected by Veolia

During Veolia’s explanation, Cllr Peter Walker said: “Nowhere did I hear anything about getting responses from service users. I had over 50 complaints”

He claimed he tried to get answers for residents in his Aylesham, Eythorne and Shepherdswell ward, and tried three times to sort out his own missed bin collections but never heard anything.

Cllr Trevor Bond said where Veolia have cut down on staff, they’ve cut down on trust “and I think we pay more for this contract now”.

DDC has been asked to confirm how much it is paying Veolia for the service.

According to Letsrecycle.com the joint contract is £56m which works out at £7 million per annum, double the current £3.5m value of the Veolia contract.

Bin bags awaiting collection. Stock image
Bin bags awaiting collection. Stock image

That website says: “According to a procurement report for Folkestone & Hythe district council, Veolia had previously advised that the contract was “loss-making”.

When asked what checks and balances were in place to make sure Veolia met contractual obligations, Mr Fitzgerald said Veolia had worked in “close partnership” with DDC and Folkestone and Hythe District Council. DDC had been involved in the options before the change happened and Veolia made tweaks when problems with the calendar were raised during daily meeting with DDC.

Reporting issues were “systemic” and communal bins posed the biggest problem, Mr Fitzgerald said.

He added that “lessons had been learned” so problems were not repeated in Folkestone when the changes were rolled out there.

But Mr Fitzgerald reasoned: “The service has started to stabalise”.

Rubbish left uncollected in the alleyway between Clarendon Street and Clarendon Place, Dover
Rubbish left uncollected in the alleyway between Clarendon Street and Clarendon Place, Dover

Veolia has been collecting refuse for DDC since 2011. The new contract with DDC and Folkestone and Hythe District Council started in January.

The schedule changes were to ensure the number of daily collections each vehicle were the same for all the Veolia trucks on the road.

According to slides presented at the meeting, newer and greener electric ‘Euro 6’ vehicles to help the authorities achieve their objective of Carbon Net Zero by 2030.

They will reduce the amount of discharge trips needed, boosting the number of homes each truck passes from 988 to 1291 per day. The daily total of collections across the district is 20,000.

The vehicles have better reporting and monitoring facilities, so residents can check if their bins have been collected in real time online. The efficiencies mean fewer staff are needed. Previously 27 drivers and 41 operatives were needed. This reduces to 22 and 33 respectively.

When pests attacked rubbish, litter was blown into a drain in Clarendon Place, Dover
When pests attacked rubbish, litter was blown into a drain in Clarendon Place, Dover

Statistics on the methodology show 17% of properties in Dover, Deal and Sandwich were affected by the changes and 9,459 waited more than three additional days without a collection.

The rationale behind the changes is to ensure each day’s collections are close to the previous day’s work for ease of return for missed collections.

The new rounds were devised using smart GIS (Geographic Information System) technology to identify the most efficient routes to achieve environmental benefits. This takes the number of properties, distance and tonnages into consideration with local knowledge.

Mr Fitzgerald said extra resources were brought in from other areas Veolia covers and DDC’s strategic director (operations and commercial) Roger Walton said councl resurces were used in trying to answer reporting issues.

Cllr Bond joined Cllr Walker in criticising the complaints reporting system. “I found it very hard as a councillor trying to find out what was going on.

One of Veolia's older vehicles
One of Veolia’s older vehicles

“People were saying ‘We’ve tried the website. We’ve tried calling, we just don’t know what’s going on’

“We need to know what went on so we can understand it so it never happens again.”

Cllr Sue Beer acknowledged Veolia’s apology but said: “I would lie to see a follow-up. I think it’s time for another one” and chairman Charlotte Zosseder thanked the representatives for being candid and “not hiding anything” of the shambles.

Read more: All the latest news from Sandwich

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Deal Dover Sandwich Beth Robson



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