Street cleaners Veolia rewarded with £38m eight-year contract

The South London Waste Partnership has saddled Council Tax-payers in Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston with an eight-year contract with Veolia.

Veolia are now locked in to the bin collection and street cleaning services in Croydon until 2024

Veolia are now locked in to the bin collection and street cleaning services in Croydon until 2024

Yes, that’s right: the same company which currently empties the bins and sweeps the roads in Croydon.

The SLWP is the same organisation which ran the dubious procurement process for the Beddington Lane incinerator, which could potentially pollute the local air for the next quarter-century.

The four boroughs in the SLWP have now all rubber-stamped the new Veolia deal, which is having the contractual details “fine tuned”, according to company. In Merton and Sutton, the deal also sees new parks maintenance contractors.

But the whole process is less about providing an improved street cleaning service, and more about saving £30million of public spending between now and 2024.

“The four boroughs will spend a combined £38 million on delivering waste collection, street cleaning, winter gritting, parks and cemeteries maintenance services this year,” Stuart Collins, Croydon’s Labour-run council’s deputy leader and delegate to the SLWP said in a press release issued by Veolia.

Over the course of the procurement, Veolia fended off competition from Kier, Serco, Amey and Biffa. Sources in Croydon Council have suggested that none of the other bidders could match Veolia’s low charges, in what appears to be a race to the bottom for services in the midst of the continuing cuts to local authority funding under the Conservative Government’s austerity measures.

“We identified that by working together and harmonising services across the region we could all make significant savings and deliver high-quality services that local people value,” Collins said.

“Local people” might not recognise “high-quality services” as something that they receive from Veolia, who have had a 15-year contract with Croydon since 2003.

In 2012, under the previous Tory administration at the Town Hall, householders in Croydon had the frequency of their bin collections halved, to fortnightly. Kingston operates a similar system, and it seems likely under the latest agreement that this will be implemented in Sutton, too, from next year.

According to a source close within Sutton Council, “It could be a suicidal move by the LibDems who control the council: in the past, they would pour extra resources into keeping the streets really clean in the six months or so before an election, and do enough to impress and win the vote. Now, under this deal, with the service outsourced to Veolia, they won’t be able to do that before the local elections in May 2018.”

In Croydon, the new deal appears to be a reward for failure by Veolia, who in 2015 – in the middle of the bidding process – faced fines of up to £180,000 for missing thousands of bin collections during the summer, after the company re-organised its systems.

Collins has spoken regularly and with enthusiasm about how the new deal, which is to be phased in in Croydon as the various elements come up for renewal, will allow the council to apply more rigorous requirements of Veolia. But it remains uncertain whether the contractor will be subjected to independent performance scrutiny; under the previous contract, as negotiated under Tory councillor Phil Thomas, Veolia monitored their own work.

And while Collins has spoken of the four-borough SLWP’s running a “robust procurement process”, it is a process that has been overseen and managed by many of the same council officials who oversaw and managed the current agreements with Veolia.

Thus, any failings identified with the previous contracts are as much the failure of the council officials in appointing Veolia and determining their performance, as they are of Veolia themselves. And the senior council staff responsible are unlikely to highlight their own cock-ups.

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3 Responses to Street cleaners Veolia rewarded with £38m eight-year contract

  1. So the residents of Sutton, Kingston and Merton will have to become used to the piss poor cleansing performance of Veolia in Croydon. It is always so reassuring that they monitor their own performance, particularly when you see their operatives choosing which pieces of litter to pick up, and which to ignore. A common occurrence that I have witnessed many times.

    Still, if it is cheap does it really matter. Our politicians obviously don’t think so.

  2. croydonres says:

    Whilst I have nothing but praise for the Veolia street sweeper who covers my part of Croydon, as a general matter of I think that any savings resulting from these over-long contracts will turn out to be a mirage. They also tend to be inflexible, meaning that punitive extras are charged for changing the specification or adding the unforseen.

    In addition, they exclude the smaller contractors who might emerge if the borough’s street cleaning were split into say 4 areas.

    Super contracts, super sized contractors cannot be good for smaller businesses, and I really wish that central government would see this.

  3. It is both easy to knock the refuse cleaner and street cleaners, and seems to be a popular pastime for many. So, I will happily speak out for the generally good service they do in my area. Yes, they sometimes do miss some bins (annoying when it is the small food waste ones the Foxes like) but that seems to be due to the speed they are being forced to operate at. We still have rubbish on our streets but that is entirely due to our anti-social neighbours. Let’s put the blame where it really lies, mostly thoughtless local people, not visitors who come into our area to dump their rubbish, it is our own people who litter our streets and fly-tip on neighbours doorsteps and alleyways. We all see them do it so don’t blame the collection service which struggles to keep up. It would be far worse if it was not for the early morning patrols of fly-tip hot spots by Council lorries to collect the mess. Well done Stuart in making that happen.

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