It was all change at the start of the month as a new contractor took over waste and recycling collection across Hastings and the borough council brought street cleaning back in-house.
In his monthly report on council activities, Hastings Borough Council leader Peter Chowney has put some detail behind why the changes had to take place and why – even though the new arrangements will cost more, it’s a worthwhile additional cost to bear.
Mr Chowney explains that the previous contract, run by Kier had never performed well but there were other issues too: “The collapse in value of recycled materials meant the contract was no longer viable, as the price had been based on the relatively high value of these materials when the contract was set up.”
Biffa Waste Services now run the new waste collection contract but street cleaning, removing flytips, and bulky waste collections will now be run directly by the council using its own employees, through a new Direct Services Organisation (DSO).
Mr Chowney explains: “We decided to do this because while specifying the required service for emptying household bins is relatively easy, specifying a service for street cleaning, particularly in a busy tourist town such as Hastings, is much more difficult.
“Bringing this service back in-house gives us more control over where and how street cleaning is carried out. We’d have liked to bring refuse collection services back in-house too, but we didn’t have the capacity to do that at the same time.”
One of the key changes in the new refuse collection arrangements is that there is no longer a need to use the black boxes for glass recycling – glass can be put in the green bins, or pink sacks. Street cleaning will, however, be organised differently.
Mr Chowney says: “There will be a greater focus on emptying litter bins, with a half-sized refuse freighter used specifically for this. We’ll also be employing more operatives, whom we’ll want to be part of the local community, so they can work with local people to make sure the streets are kept clean. They will have specific rounds and ‘patches’ with day-to-day instructions, but we’ll also be responding to reports received online, via the council’s My Hastings website, so make sure you report all problems with litter, overfull bins, dog fouling and flytipping there, so they can be dealt with promptly.”
Mr Chowney says this is especially important in the early part of the new contract. He says the council is aware that fine tune the rounds that have been set up at launch.
All the street cleaning and associated vehicles will eventually be in the council’s own livery.
“The first weekend of the new service was perhaps the worst day of the year to take over a new street cleaning service – the hottest day of the year, and the day of the St Leonards Festival,” says Mr Chowney.
On top of that the former contractors had left more than 300 unresolved reports of litter and flytipping that needed to be dealt with: “So it’s taken a while to catch up,” he says.
he goes on: “There were some problems with the Biffa waste collections too, as they missed quite a few communal bin collections, meaning the bins were overflowing and bags were ripped open by Seagulls. Hopefully, these problems will be resolved soon. As the service settles in, we’ll also be looking at how we can ‘commercialise’ it, to generate a profit to pay for local services by offering waste collection services to businesses, or by operating street cleaning services for other organisations – for example, on social housing estates.”
And Mr Chowney says Hastings Borough Council will also be looking to bring other contracted services back in-house pointing out that the council would, “…run them for public good, not private profit”.