Major shake-up to bin collections proposed

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Canterbury City Council is considering major changes to the way waste collection and street cleaning are managed from January 2021, in order to gain full control of these services.

A report to the Policy and Resources Committee on Wednesday 13 March recommends the council agrees to develop a Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo) to manage both of these high-profile, frontline services once the existing contract with Serco expires in January 2021.

In the report, councillors are told a LATCo would be “entirely controlled by the council and closely resembles an in-house service”. It would offer much greater flexibility than a contracted service, allowing changes to more easily be implemented than under a private sector operator, where negotiations would be required.

Customer services could also be integrated to the council’s existing set-up, both on the digital side and through its contact centre. This, the report says, “would allow the council more control to resolve issues”.

The report makes it clear, though, that setting up a LATCo is more risky than seeking a new contractor, as it is a new activity for the council and the expertise does not yet exist to deliver it. This would need to be bought in.

Councillors are also told that, financially, there is little difference between setting up a LATCo and retendering for a new contract. Both options are financially viable.

The report concludes “there is little to choose between the options…it will depend on the weight councillors place on the pros and cons of each”. The recommendation to progress the LATCo option is based on the control and flexibility such an approach brings.

Should councillors decide against a LATCo, two options for seeking a new private contractor are set out. These are to either tender alone, or go in with a joint tender with Dover District Council and Folkestone and Hythe District Council, and the report outlines the advantages and disadvantages of these.

Leader of Canterbury City Council and Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, Cllr Simon Cook, said: “We have been providing bin collections and street cleaning via a contractor for well over 20 years, so if the committee decides to move to a trading company, it would be a huge change for us.

“With waste in particular, there are a number of changes to national legislation likely to be coming our way in the years ahead, so it’s vital we’re in the best possible position to deal with them.”

If the committee agrees to develop the LATCo, work on a detailed business plan would begin, and there would then be a report back to Policy and Resources Committee in July to approve the creation of the new company.

The Policy and Resources Committee takes place on Wednesday 13 March at 7pm at the Guildhall in Canterbury and is open to the public.