Questions raised over new £21m rubbish deal with Veolia

The council budget, which is set to be approved at a virtual meeting tonight, offers “the worst of both worlds” as far as the borough’s recycling centres are concerned, according to a Tory councillor.

Purley Oaks dump could be sold off to raise money for cash-strapped council

In the middle of the council’s deepening financial crisis last year, Croydon agreed to pay rubbish contractors Veolia an extra £20.7million to “protect” the borough’s three recycling centres. Yet now, as the council scrambles to plug the covid-sized hole in its budgets, it is considering flogging off at least one, possibly two, of the recycling centres.

Helen Redfern is a Conservative councillor for Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward, where one of the two under-threat recycling centres is located. The other centres are at Factory Lane (which is thought to be safe from any sell-off) and at Fishers Farm, New Addington.

The Labour-controlled council’s budget can only be approved tonight because the government has agreed to a £120million bail-out over the next two financial years to help plug the overspend last year, which arose largely as a consequence of the covid-19 emergency.

Redfern has looked into the refuse collection and management aspect of the budget. Despite the possible reduction of service by the closure of a recycling centre, Redfern said, “The new 2021-2022 budget does not indicate that substantial savings will be made to the [Veolia] contract.”

The council has already axed its free bulky waste collections – for a saving of £307,000 in 2021-2022, as it reintroduces charges of up to £51 for a service which was hoped would deter residents from fly-tipping their old mattresses, dishwashers and other items too large to be taken by them to the tip.

Helen Redfern: needs a review of council contracts

Redfern said, “Saving relatively small amounts by reducing future services to our residents, whilst maintaining extraordinary increases in payments to contractors based on existing levels of services, is the worst of both worlds.

“We need the council to review all of its costly contracts in order to return the best possible value to Croydon’s residents and Council Tax-payers.”

It was the Conservatives, when they had control of the council, who first outsourced the bin collection service to Veolia, in a deal which, extraordinarily, allowed for no council monitoring of the contractors’ performance. Veolia were, effectively, allowed to mark their own homework.

Since then, with Croydon part of the South London Waste Partnership, residents have endured the Binmageddon roll-out of wheelie bins, at the behest of Veolia in a massive contract change across four boroughs.

There are concerns that Croydon Council is paying rubbish contractors Veolia more, for less

The exact reason for Croydon renegotiating its deal with Veolia in 2020, earlier than required, remains a mystery. The contract for the household reuse and recycling centres has been increased by £20.7million over 14 years, with the 31.5 per cent increase in the cost of the contract applied retrospectively. Given the level of cuts being imposed across the council’s other operations, this looks like an especially good deal… for Veolia.

Although the council has already brought forward some proposals for “asset disposals”, none of the recycling centres were included in the first round of land and properties to be put up for sale. According to the budget papers, the council is looking to save just £11,000 on its recycling centre operations this financial year, with a further £100,000 savings to come in 2022-2023.

“This is a very small saving for such a big reduction in the service that residents experience,” Redfern said. “We need to know more about how savings are to be achieved.”

Read more: Council Tax-payers pay for politicians’ game of cat-and-mouse
Read more: Council handed biggest bail-out in history


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Questions raised over new £21m rubbish deal with Veolia

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    With respects, this contract should be investigated.

    We as residents should ensure that Veolia do not ”mark their own work” instead we should raise every single fault with photos taken of every incident and raise them in full to the council who can then match them against this so called self monitoring and if this does not match then lets have an investigation to determine if fraud is occurring.

  2. Lewis White says:

    With recycling centres, it must be the staff which are the biggest cost, other than the taking away of the rubbish and recyclables.

    The closure of one centre would be a disaster. I haven’t been to the New Addington centre, as it is miles away, but I visit the South Croydon Purley Oaks centre which is well-run, and flows quite well. I have been to Factory Lane, but far too often, it is shut down half way through a Saturday for a long time as the big skips need to be moved! –and the queues are enormous. I am not sure if it has been improved, but it was shambolic.

    If Purley Oaks is closed, the Factory lane site will be overwhelmed.

    Does the council really wants to deal with more fly tipping, and the high financial costs as well as the environmental costs of cleaning it up?

    One hopes not, but that would be the result.

    I feel that a sensible charge would be appropriate. It would be a few £ s, like £2 per visit for domestic customers. I would not mind paying, nor would most.

    Why should someone without a car have to pay the council £30 or so to take away an old bed, or fridge, but the person with a car can take it to the council recycling centre and get rid of it for free?.

    My guess is that some small builders take their waste to the council tips and get away without paying.

    My requests would be–

    1– DO NOT SELL ANY SITES OFF. Croydon needs three–it is a very big borough

    2- Keep all sites open

    2— maybe have New Addington open 3 weekdays per week, plus all weekends open, and do the same at Purley Oaks. That would save on staffing costs– staff could move from one site to the other.

    and/ or

    3 — introduce a sensible charge per car per visit. Have a barrier. Have a ticket machine or camera

    Most citizens do not fly tip, nor would do. A REASONABLE charge. like a parking ticket, would bring in income, and would not be resented. Too high a charge would result in resentment.

    The extra pollution caused by people driving to a distant recycling centre would be a direct consequence of site closure.

    Why not introduce an Account, like the green waste service ?. Then, each person signing up would have to declare their vehicle reg (s) and be given a certain number of car loads per year, or have a debit charge system.

    There must be ways of achieving this.

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