Council votes for flexibility as it cancels 35-year waste deal

Sheffield Council is looking for new firms to run its waste services.
Sheffield Council is looking for new firms to run its waste services.

Sheffield’s waste services are on the market after councillors voted to rip up the current contract with provider Veolia.

Members of the cabinet yesterday decided the cost of ending the contract 19 years early was worth paying in order to get a cheaper, more flexible service for the city.

The current contract was signed in 2001 and was not set to expire until 2036.

But council officers became so frustrated with the lack of savings being made in the service that they asked councillors to take a multi-million pound hit and start afresh.

The decision was made after two hours of discussion behind closed doors, as councillors weighed up the consequences of the new approach.

The council will now split the various elements of the waste service into smaller parts and then put each area out to tender.

Speaking to councillors yesterday, waste project manager Jed Turner said the contract with Veolia to run the entire service lacked flexibility.

“We worked very hard with Veolia to try to achieve savings over the past five years,” he said.

“That’s not produced sustained savings at all. Therefore we commenced a review to see if there was an alternative.”

Mr Turner said the objective was to reduce the cost and allow for more flexibility within the waste service.

Veolia is responsible for collecting and disposing of waste, running household waste recycling centres, managing and operating the Energy Recovery Facility at Bernard Road and the district heating network, picking up bulky items and the collection and disposal of abandoned vehicles.

After looking at how the various elements were provided, officers came to the conclusion that the service could be delivered more cheaply if it was split into its individual parts.

Insourcing and creating a council-owned provider were considered, but officers recommended a procurement model.

Following last night’s decision, the council will now put a series of contract options out to tender.

Cabinet member for environment Bryan Lodge said before the meeting the 280 Veolia workers who would be affected by any changes would be consulted.

Waste services would continue to ‘run smoothly’ as a priority until a new contract is signed, and Veolia will run the service until then, he said.

Following the meeting, Coun Lodge added: "We needed to find a best-value solution that ensures a quality waste service for Sheffield taxpayers, and this led us to the decision that was made yesterday.

“It is no secret that we are operating in very tough financial times and we have to do things differently.

“Our contract with Veolia, which was signed 16 years ago, is no longer meeting our needs and is no longer compatible with the tough financial landscape in which the Government is forcing us to operate.”

Councillors also approved a number of changes to the way bins are collected.

The main alterations are replacing the blue box with an additional recycling bin; charging for new and replacement black and green bins and changing possible collection times to 6am to 9pm, Monday to Friday.

Other proposed changes include collecting bins at flats on weekends between 7am and 4pm and introducing the collection of plastic bottles for recycling at flats.

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