The ‘se­crets’ of £82m Kier waste con­tract that tax­pay­ers are not al­lowed to see

Now coun­cil­lors are ask­ing for full ver­sion:

Glamorgan Gazette - - Front Page - ABBY BOLTER abby.bolter@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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