The waste and recycling collection service being delivered to East Hampshire residents is rubbish, writes Steve Hunt, councillor for Alton Amery and leader of East Hampshire District Council's Lib Dem opposition group.
There is not a day that goes by without receiving multiple notifications of bin collection disruption. Residents are fed up with the non-collection of their rubbish, their garden waste and their recycling.
The sorry truth is a different administration would not have started from here.
I know that is no comfort for the long-suffering residents who are wondering what they are paying their council tax for. Residents even pay extra for the collection of their garden waste.
Real solutions need to be found, and I do agree with the actions that East Hampshire District Council are taking to rectify this. Right from the outset, it has been a catalogue of failure.
The waste contract is a service delivered by our recently ‘divorced’ partner council, Havant.
It is Havant Borough Council’s contract with Norse and East Hampshire District Council are just a service area of their contract.
The service was given out without a tender and was heralded as delivering huge savings. Not only that, but we were also told the eight-year contract will enable a new modern fleet of collection vehicles.
But the service requirements are very different between Havant and East Hampshire and, dare I say, one of the diverse reasons we should not have pursued a staff and operational merger with them in the first place.
I do appreciate both Covid and Brexit have impacted staffing levels, that East Hampshire agreed to pay higher wages for drivers and loaders and a recruitment campaign was run.
We are told the current issues have been because of staff shortages at the workshop in Havant. Out of the 18 vehicles – which, I remind you, were new for this contract – seven needed repairs, meaning there were not enough operational vehicles.
Some parts were needed from Europe, and there have been delays in getting them.
I agree with Cllr Millard, leader of EHDC, that it is an unacceptable level of service. I also am glad to read that all the vehicles are now operating, and a recovery plan is in place.
However, the root of the problem remains. We really need to take control of the waste service and East Hampshire must have its own separate contract.
The problem is the original agreement was for eight years. I have every sympathy with council officers trying to negotiate the council out of that. It must be a legal minefield.
There are other shared contracts the district is locked into too, which have also not delivered the service levels required.
The waste contract is, however, the biggest and we really do need to take back control and bin the old one.
Hopefully the newly-‘divorced’ East Hampshire District will tread more carefully before making any fresh contracts. I can assure readers that if there is a change of control at East Hampshire in the May elections, residents can expect a higher level of service and diligence from their district council. That’s what they pay their council tax for.