Hertfordshire County Council could take back control of recycling centres ‘in-house’

Hertfordshire County Council’s network of household waste and recycling centres look set to return ‘in-house’ – following a request by contractors Amey to walk away.

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 9:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 9:56 am

The 17 HWRC sites – which attract more than 1.8m visits a year – have been run by waste giants Amey since 2014.

But reductions in the value of recyclable materials and increasing haulage costs are said to have made the contract, which is due to run until March 2023, less attractive.

Last year the company – which is said to be losing around £1.2million a year on the contract – asked to exit from it.

Hertfordshire County Council could take back control of recycling centres in-house

And since then officers at the county council have been considering a number of options – which could have included insisting that Amey continue.

On Wednesday (May 6) a meeting of the county council’s special cabinet panel backed plans to bring the service back ‘in-house’, under the direct control of the county council.

And if the move is backed by a meeting of the county council’s cabinet, the management of the recycling centres could be passed to the county council on October 1.

Executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone said the option was the “best consideration” for the county council.

And he said the circumstances showed what good negotiations the council had achieved in securing the initial contract.

“It shows what good negotiations that officers did with Amey,” he said.

“Amey are not a little two-bit company- they are big boys and they have negotiated many contracts on these sorts of things.

“And the fact that we got a great deal and that we put the risk very much in their court rather than ours I think is commendable. Well done officers.”

Cllr Hone said the plans for the future delivery of the service at the HWRCs took into account a range of factors.

“The deal we are being presented with here in terms of not only the divorce but also in terms of the path forward is ‘best consideration’,” he said.

“Best consideration takes into account all sorts of things from the service we give to the public, to the cost, to the operatives, to the people involved in negotiating etc etc.

“It is best consideration and we think it’s the right thing to do and the right direction to travel.”

At the meeting, councillors were told that over recent months officers had been working with Amey to see if the issues with the contract could be “mitigated” – but that this had not been possible.

And the terms of the existing contract were said to be between £2.5m and £2.8m less per year than average services delivered to similar councils elsewhere.

Councillors heard that although the existing contract had presented excellent value for money the market value of recyclable materials could remove the incentive to recycle as much as possible.

And they were told that remaining in the agreement could lead to little or no improvement in recycling rates.

Councillors also heard that if the contract was re-tendered, although there would be companies that would bid for it, it would not be financially practical.

And that although every option would lead to “a significant increase in costs”, the in-house option is the “most financially attractive”.

It was also reported to councillors that bringing the service in-house – or settling up a ‘local authority trading company’ – would give the council greater control and flexibility.

And councillors were told that Amey had agreed to assist the council to aim for a “seamless” transition.

At the meeting Labour Cllr Joshua Bennett Lovell said he was “really encouraged” to see the service being brought back ‘in-house’ and pleased to support it.

Also, backing the move, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst said the work the staff had done in rearranging the contract was “commendable”.

And he also praised the delivery of the contract by the staff, who he said would ‘hopefully’ now transfer to the council.

“They have done a very commendable service working on behalf of Hertfordshire residents,” he said.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst also asked for an assurance that there would be no disruption in the service, as it transferred between Amey and the county council. And Cllr Hone said that he anticipated the transfer to be seamless.