The ‘secrets’ of £82m Kier waste contract that taxpayers are not allowed to see
Now councillors are asking for full version:
IT’S worth £82m over seven years and is paid for out of the public purse.
But councillors claim they have yet to see a complete uncensored version of the seven-year waste contract – previously branded “shambolic” and “a farce” – which Bridgend council has with private firm Kier.
They also claim a council official told them Kier – which started a new waste collection contract in June – will not be providing anyone for future scrutiny meetings held by the authority because executives were given a “hard time” when they faced councillors back in October.
Liberal Democrat Cheryl Green and Conservative Carolyn Webster, who both chair scrutiny committees, said they are being prevented from doing the job they were elected to do.
“As elected members the public put us in that position of being able to either govern or, if we are not in that position of being the leaders of the council, we are there to hold the council to account and we can’t do our job unless we are given all the information we request,” said Coun Webster.
Councillors have been given access to a redacted version of the contract – where information deemed commercially sensitive has been blanked out or removed – and now a request has been made for a complete version.
A Bridgend council spokesman said: “The council strives to support elected members in their role and has made the contract available when requested on a number of occasions.
“The only parts which have not been released involve specific financial information relating to Kier that remains commercially confidential.
“The service is continuing to deliver significant increases in recycling with a rise of 68% recorded during the Christmas and New Year season.
“To date, Kier have not been asked to attend any further meetings of scrutiny.”
Coun Green said a council officer told January’s meeting of the corporate overview and scrutiny committee that Kier would not attend another scrutiny committee meeting in future.
“They had a hard time at the scrutiny (in October) and apparently they said that would be it. I do find that extraordinary,” she said.
“It’s obviously a big contract and to say it’s gone well would be stretching the truth. I don’t understand why we’ve been denied access to that. How we can scrutinise something we can’t see beggars belief.
“I am still having people saying they haven’t had their (recycling) containers. There’s a lot of angry people out there.”
Coun Green added that the feeling among councillors in general was one of despair.
Authority members hit out as Bridgend council announced it will crack down on householders who have not “fully embraced recycling” by not sticking to the limit of two rubbish bags per fortnight.
The authority said after achieving its highest ever recycling level of 74% – unofficially the best in the UK – homes which “regularly put out bundles of bin bags” will receive let- ters. It said Kier workers will also put stickers on additional bags and leave them behind.
As a very last resort it said persistent offenders would be issued with a fine of up to £100.
The new waste contract was designed to boost recycling rates to meet tough Welsh Government targets.
But Kier, which also runs the community recycling centres and provides trade waste collections, came in for severe criticism over high levels of missed collections when the service began in June.
Extra crews were drafted in and the level of complaints dropped after a few weeks.
But when Kier bosses faced councillors at a scrutiny meeting committee members slammed them and council leaders for “congratulating themselves” on improving performance when they said collections are still being missed, complaints are going unanswered, and some residents have still not had the correct bags or containers for the scheme, while others have trouble securing discreet collections of absorbent hygiene waste.
Plaid Cymru councillor Tim Thomas, who attended the January scrutiny meeting, said: “How can we scrutinise performance when we are being kept in the dark like this?
“Some people feel that BCBC have washed their hands of recycling in the county borough and this devil may care attitude to good open democracy and accountability will do nothing to tackle this perception. I call on the authority to adopt a more robust relationship with Kier to ensure transparency and accountability.”
Both Coun Green and Coun Webster said they understood that certain parts of the contract should not be made available to the public, but they should be allowed to see them as councillors.
“Scrutiny cannot operate when it’s being prevented from seeing the actual document that governs the contract,” said Coun Green.
Kier was approached for comment but had not responded by the time we went to press.
Scrutiny committee members say they still have not seen an uncensored version of the council’s waste contract with Kier