This item will include updates on:
- the Waste Services Contract
- Car parking management
- the provision of a new Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) in the Borough.
Updates were provided on the following issues:
(a) Waste Services Contract
The Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Environment Services (Councillor Robin Betts) referred to the significant concerns raised by Members at recent meetings with Urbaser regarding the contractor’s performance, the non-completion of rounds, ‘missed’ collections and the lack of crew familiarisation with the new rounds. It was emphasised that the current standard of service was unacceptable.
As a result of these meetings, and having regard of the significant concerns raised by the recent Street Scene and Environment Services Advisory Board, an Action Plan setting out how the current issues would be addressed was developed by the contractor. With immediate effect the contractor had increased the number of collections to 6 (up from 4) to ensure rounds were completed in a timely fashion.
The parish councils shared the significant concerns raised by Members and also queried why crews were switched to new rounds they were unfamiliar with following the initial 6 month transfer (March – September); the capacity of the food waste pocket; failure of IT to support crews; the ability of the Borough Council to deal with the volume of calls and the perceived mixing of materials by the contractor.
In response, the Street Scene Manager (in his role as Partnership Manager) indicated that many of these concerns had been raised with the contractor and the operational working patterns proposed had worked successfully elsewhere. However, it appeared that the number of vehicles required had been underestimated as had the amount of food waste that could be generated. It was planned that once the service was operating smoothly there would be opportunity to educate about reducing food waste.
To avoid confusion by residents it was suggested that an information sheet of what could be recycled be produced. The recently established cross-party Waste Contract Member Group would be asked to look at this further as part of improving communication and messaging to residents.
With regard to the use of IT which enabled crews to identify properties and routes, it appeared that this was not being fully utilised. This highlighted a potential lack of user knowledge and should be addressed urgently by the contractor.
The Chief Executive advised that additional staff had been engaged on a temporary contract to assist with the volume of calls being received and this would be paid for by Urbaser. Residents were advised to check the website for regular updates.
Any evidence of material being mixed at collection should be reported as the contractor and the Borough Council took this issue seriously and could be a disciplinary matter. The use of ‘shuttle bins’ to aggregate waste from various properties was noted and did not mean material was being mixed.
Members welcomed the principle of kerbside collection and improved recycling as it supported climate change. The Borough Council continued to perform well and the last recorded figure for waste sent to landfill for Tonbridge and Malling was 0.4%
It was noted that the vast majority of subscribers to the garden waste collection scheme were getting their bins emptied and receiving the service they had paid for. However, consideration would be given to extending renewal dates where appropriate.
It was also recognised that a number of residents were receiving a good service. Overall, the Borough Council was pleased by the response of residents in embracing recycling and were disappointed that the performance of the contractor had not improved sufficiently to support this response.
In conclusion, the Chairman (in his role as Leader) reiterated that the Borough Council would continue to apply pressure to Urbaser to improve the level of service as the current performance experienced by some residents was unacceptable. The Borough Council would review the options to invoke the financial penalties set out in the contract if there was no improvement by the beginning of next week.
The Chairman thanked the Panel for the tone and quality of the debate which had been well balanced and fair.
(b) Car Parking Management
All the Borough Council’s fees and charges were reviewed on an annual basis. Proposals related to car parking would be considered by Cabinet early in 2020.
In addition, reviews of car parking management in Kings Hill, Hadlow and Hildenborough would also be done as part of the regular programme of works.
(c) Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC)
Kent County Council (KCC) was currently tendering for the provision of a new HWRC in Tonbridge and Malling and a good level of interest had been received from a number of providers. It was noted that the successful tenderer would be expected to submit their own planning application.
A contract announcement would be made in March 2020 and KCC had offered to attend the next meeting of the Parish Partnership Panel to provide an update.
It was clarified that once the HWRC was operational in Tonbridge and Malling residents would no longer be able to use the facility at Cuxton.
The County Councillor for Malling West (Councillor H Rayner) advised that KCC was installing a new food waste digester at Blaise Quarry Farm. This was due to come online in April 2020.