Croydon and three other boroughs to bin Veolia rubbish deal

Veolia, who have swept Croydon’s streets and emptied its residents’ bins sporadically since 2003, are to be dropped as the council’s rubbish contractor.

You’ve bin done: after years of residents complaining about poor service from Veolia, now their councils have acted

The decision has been reached following “significant and ongoing concerns” with Veolia’s performance, which saw three of the boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership – Croydon, Merton and Sutton – each issue the contractor with a Service Improvement Notice earlier this year.

Apparently it was thanks to the recommendation of Croydon that Veolia was awarded an eight-year bins contract across the four SLWP boroughs – Croydon and Merton, plus Sutton and Kingston – in 2017. The switch quickly led to complaints over poor standards of service in Merton and Sutton, giving rise to their very own hashtags of #MuckyMerton and #SuttonBinShame, and ultimately to the takeover of many of Croydon’s pavements through #Binmageddon.

When signed, the contract was worth “over £209million”, according to Veolia, and included the possibility of two eight-year extensions.

But in 2020 Croydon gave Veolia a £21milion contract “uplift”. Merton, too, are understood to have increased payments in the hope of some improvement in the state of their “mucky” streets. All to no avail…

The SLWP agreements with Veolia will run through until 2025.

According to sources at two of the SLWP councils, Veolia maintain that the slimmed-down service that they provide is exactly as required by their contracts. Notoriously, in Croydon, this included that they would self-monitor their performance for missed bin collections and the cleanliness of swept streets.

Councillors have now reached the conclusion that the contracts with Veolia, as drawn up by council officials, are not fit for purpose and require extensive renegotiation. Neither Sutton nor Kingston are prepared to increase the amount that they will pay Veolia under the existing terms of their deal.

#SuttonBinShame: none of the four SLWP councils have been happy about Veolia’s service standards. None have been prepared to do anything about it

Labour-controlled Merton broke the news that it “is set to exit its contract with Veolia Ltd for street cleaning and waste collection when it ends in 2025”. The decision is due to be confirmed at a cabinet meeting next Monday.

Andrea Keys, partnership director for the SLWP, the unaccountable council quango, told BBC London that “after taking all things into account, officers [that means council staff] in the four partner boroughs have decided to recommend to their members [that means elected councillors] that recommissioning the services would be in the boroughs’ best interests”.

“But the contract has also had its challenges. Veolia’s proposal to extend the contract reflects the significant changes in the wider market since it was signed five years ago, and, following a detailed options appraisal, the outcome shows that the partners may benefit from new specifications that reflect borough-specific service priorities and performance standards. After taking all things into account, officers in the four partner boroughs have decided to recommend to their Members that recommissioning the services would be in the boroughs’ best interests.”

The SLWP says “a comprehensive programme of resident engagement will be held during the autumn providing local people with an important opportunity to provide feedback on waste collection and street cleaning services; what currently works, what doesn’t and what the priorities should be for the future”. Oh yeah.

They also claim that, “The opportunity to recommission services comes at an opportune time for a number of reasons”.

Apparently, the four boroughs “are all at a pivotal point in their carbon reduction agendas”. Yes: the same four boroughs whose recycling rates have plummeted since they started shovelling a large chunk of the waste Veolia collects each week into the polluting Beddington incinerator.

SLWP also says that “covid-19 and the resulting increase in home-working has had a significant impact on the volumes and types of waste being collected from homes across the region”.

They are also gearing up for “major legislative changes” such as Consistency in Collections, Deposit Return Scheme, Extended Producer Responsibility and the Plastic Packaging Tax.

“Recommissioning will allow each borough to review and redesign their services in order to reflect these changing needs,” says the SLWP – which, remember, is never accountable at the ballot box for any of its decisions.

There’s more than a hint that the four boroughs, having tried to get the job done on the cheap by negotiating the waste contract together, might soon start to go their own ways again. Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon “will also be free to make their own decisions on how best to maximise joint working opportunities”, the SLWP says.

“There will certainly be things that are still best done together, and these new arrangements will not prevent that from happening.”

Veolia say that “service requirements and the wider market have evolved substantially” since they won the contract in 2017. Which is, of course, bollocks: residents still expect their bins to be collected regularly, and they live in hope that their streets will be swept frequently, just as they did five years ago. But they are two things which Veolia has failed to do all too often, while the four local councils have usually been reluctant to act as anything other than apologists for their contractors.

“We look forward to reviewing new contract specifications when these are available and will respond accordingly in the new bidding process,” Veolia said, knowing that they now have the four councils over a barrel of mediocre service for the next three years.

“In the meantime, we are committed to continuing to deliver the best quality services to residents until the completion of the contract in 2025.” Oh yeah…

Croydon’s part-time Mayor, Jason Perry, has so far been silent on the matter.

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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
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18 Responses to Croydon and three other boroughs to bin Veolia rubbish deal

  1. Lewis White says:

    I have to say that our service in my road in Coulsdon from Veolia has in general been very good. Nomally on the specified day, and without a trail of litter dropped in the street. Pleasant staff, who sometimes come into the garden to pull out a forgotten green waste bin.

    Looking at the topic of where the rubbish and recycling goes, I see that an Inspoector is going to review the “soundnes” of the Incinerator plan….sorry, I meant, the Review of the SW london Waste Plan.

    Sadly, confronted with hundreds of pages of plan, I did not have time to read it, to see if it was (in my opinion) “sound ” or “unsound”. Such matters are in fact treated by planning inspectors and learned counsel for the councils in a very similar arcane maner to deciding the medieval question of “how many angels can dance on a pin head ?”

    I wonder if it contained any commitment to looking at an aletrnative to burning our unreycled waste at Beddington?

    It is no good people like me, keen on environment, against pollution — to bang on about the incinerator and its toxic plume of gases and chemicals…… unless we are presented by the experts with genuine alternatives.

    Isn’t that waht these experts are paid for ? To plan the best ways forward into a less polluted future?.

    I am wondering now if Liz Truss is thinking of having grossly polluted “enterprise zones” where chain gangs of dole scroungers are tethered to benches so that they can pick over hundreds of cubic metres of electrical waste every day to get their dole. Then, wash the waste in sulphuric acid to disolve all those rare metals !

    The waste liquids can then be flushed into the local rivers where the acid will eat away the raw sewage overflowing from the local Water Authority’s vintage 1960’s treatment works–so those annoying wildwater swimmers and eco-worriers and warriors won’t be able to see the toilet paper, lumps of poo and wet wipes that are discharged in storm periods. Because they will have been dissolved!

    Along with the wild water swimmers too!

    Job done! (no pun intended) …..

    There must be dozens of potential international entrepreneurs out there who have been waiting for quite a time for a small incentive, of a little tax break or two, to unleash their entrepreneurial dynamism, by risking their hard-earned money in such worthy enterprises.

    A quickly-thrown up factory and a big yard, bulldozed onto this boring old marshland only inhabited by water rats, skylarks, kestrels, herons and dangerous snakes, with a short run of pipe into the river or sea, will use up a lot of concrete from the demolished local steelworks too!!

    Apologies for that ridiculous fantasy scenario, but it is a fact that, the country does need entrepreneurs, and their money, to devise and run real business developments to address the very big needs of our day, like sewage treatment, solar power generation, and “total recycling”.

    But that needs a stable business climate, and entrepreneurs who are not here today and and gone tomorrow, leaving derelict, polluted land, empty premises, and a queue of redundant workers.

    And that needs government with real vision— and wisdom.

  2. luke123 says:

    I’m also a Coulsdon resident and the Veolia bin collections have been faultless for years including on the many bank holidays they still collect.

  3. Haydn White says:

    Here in sunny Mitcham they empty our bins (providing that you put them out) on the appointed day and so far without fail and that leaves little room for complaint, However I do have issues with what they do with it after collection. Apparently some dim twit who wrote a combined contract that pays the contractor more for incinerating than recycling and contractors will always , always, always, seek to maximise profits, their bonuses and sometimes their jobs are linked to this. After 30 years of writing and running government contracts I have learnt a few tricks to ensure the contractor does what is required, and if I was letting this contract the first thing I would do is break the contracts into separate parts first part empty bins, they get paid per tonne collected and give the recycling part to the separate recycling contractor who gets paid per tonne of recycled waste giving what cant be recycled to the incinerator contractor who also takes the bin rubbish from the emptying contractor , they get paid per tonne incinerated and any waste arising from incineration dealt with . This solution makes the overall contract self policing as each contractor will watch the other contractors for you. As far as road sweeping it would be nice to adopt the Spanish system – where if you want unemployment benefits then you will be required to work for the local council when and if required doing things like road sweeping etc. Unfortunately I am now retired and spend as much time as possible laying in the sun with a cold beer in hand otherwise I would run this contract for them.

  4. David Bryce says:

    Veolia regularly leave waste strewn along the road on collection days. Residents go out and clear it up. Croydon Council is not fit to run public services. Senior council officials feckless, lazy and have no accountability.

  5. Ian Kierans says:

    Ok, Veolia have a number of elements to their contract so dealing them as they stand

    Collection – Probably the worst service I have had the misfortune to have in decades.
    Assisted collections – forget that – never done, driver after years finally got a list what a waste of air and paper.

    Bins – we have been waiting for a replacement food caddy for months.

    Recycling – Factory Lane is actually reasonable – but not for the level of need and struggles to cope with queue’s there regularly. It also causes severe road blockages as this road is not designed for the expected use.

    Street Cleaning – ok that is a misnomer. We have a person who is supposed to clear rubbish of the pavements and road. He is seen rarely and always misses a lot.
    our street has never been cleaned with water – ever!
    Fly tipping – This is a major issue. The Veolia Van is quite good at taking a lot of it but again it is a small percentage of what is dumped and is unable to cope.

    Now there are perhaps extenuating circumstances with respect to training and the staff targets and what had become the norm. But it never improved – ever.
    One can point with so much evidence from phone video’s to cctv footage of the shoddy service the spillages the damage to cars the Landlords fly-tipping after tenants leave or are evicted. The builders of developers dumping their waste and leaving the road a mess, the failure to prevent or enforce anti-social behaviors of raves when you have 200+ vehicles emptying their shit on three roads – many the waste from their drug use – I would not like to have to sweep that up either.

    Realy the fundamental problem is Croydon Council. Why? Because it signed a contract and put in processes it failed to uphold or resource and never effectively managed the performance of the contractor or itself.

    More to the point it had a process that actively avoids taking on board residents complaints about the lack of service. Remember this is a Mandatory duty for the Council to provide!
    Call it anyway you like Veolia has not performed in 4 Boroughs but it has in many others. The reasons it has not done so here is this Council and the fault lies solely and totally with them and the persons who thought this contract was fit for purpose in the first place. And then all those who let it carry on. I suspect one will find many of those contracts poorly done.

  6. Pat McCarthy says:

    People in St Helier regularly complain that Veoilia collect alternate bins, leaving the others unemptied. We have spoken to several people who have watched them do this. While in leafy Carshalton Beeches all bins are usually emptied. Maybe Veolia think St Helier residents are less likely to access Sutton council’s complaints system?
    If anyone has statistics on the amount and type of waste that is collected vs incinerated, please share, I haven’t been able to find this published.

  7. Just another one says:

    Instead of starting to blame the contractors, you should analyse the behaviour of people in general, as it seems that most would like to pull tricks and dump their overwhelming size of waste where is possible, as most of them are still stuck in the mentality of “I pay for someone else to clean this” instead of “wait a minute, how can I fix this?”.
    My local collection drivers have always taken the extra waste, worked bank holidays, greeted everyone with a smile on their face and did their job properly, all while working in a tough environment (their lorries did not have AC during the summer heat) just for them to have complaints from various people about: a bag that was left behind or the mess that was caused by residents – which confused the waste collection company with a cleaning company.
    I think that us as people should have more common sense when it comes to this issue and stop pointing fingers here and there “because I pay for a service” and act more responsibly.

    • Your very reasonable arguments would carry more weight if you were not anonymous.
      We usually won’t publish anonymous comments. Next time, put your name to it, or we’ll just delete

    • Ian Kierans says:

      I am sure that that is an issue and there are always free-loaders (pardon the Pun) and fly tippers. There are also as i have said quite a lot of very good and helpful teams within Veolia on both rubbish and street cleaning. But that does not detract from the phone and CCTV footage of some crews activities to get the round done as quick as possible. Nor the unassailable fact that within many areas of Croydon this Council is not providing the services that they are mandated to provide. We are not talking of a few but a complete failure in some areas of the contract that has been ongoing for years. Veolia is the Councils Contractor. For the Council to blame them is trite. The Responsibility lies with the Council irrespective of whom they contract the service out to.

      They do not contract out the responsibility or accountability for this despite many highly paid executives (perhaps listening to highly paid risk mitigators indulging in PR based Risk Management) would like to believe along with Elected Mayors and Councillors.

  8. Jack walter says:

    It’s management and the supervisors in the office that’s the problem try to bully the crews

  9. James Golbey says:

    Veolia’s service seemed okay to me. My issue was with the alternating of collection. Their argument for why you don’t need to have bins collected every week seemed to be a little weak. If you have them collected every other week and used a smaller bin, they said, you would use only 60% of the bin a week. This meant that over two weeks you would use 120% of the bin – in other words, 20% of your rubbish is in bags and bins in the house. And that is exactly where it all ends up. Hopefully the new contract will look at the 20% of extra rubbish that people have clearly started to dump outside and which foxes then rip apart and strew across the street

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Seperating food waste from General waste removes much of the methane (and exploding dumps) from landfill and prevents maggot infested waste on the street with smells to attract vermin etc. So when your Food caddy is bust by the crew having to work to an unrealistic schedule (for instance) and throwing it in the general direction of your house you are unable to get a new one for over 12 weeks. There has been a shortage of these bins for some time and the Council advice is to place this food waste in the general rubbish.

      This attracts rats and birds to the General rubbish bin not built to take food waste and lies festering there for two weeks, not one. This generates for the last 3 months a bin full of maggots.
      Honestly I would not like to be the binman that has to take that lot away – they deserve a raise!

  10. We’ll know that the new contracts are successful when no councillors or election candidates feel the need to take selfies of themselves doing litter picks, the ultimate symbol of municipal failure

    • Hugh Malyan of blessed memory was a prime offender – there was a gurning pic of him in every issue of the council magazine, often wearing an immaculate high viz tabard.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Now that is a very good performance measure! Perhaps working with the waste team doing the job they do would allow those Elected to understand what is required in the role and the ”real” difficulties of waste management in the Borough.
      Then we may get a better constructed Contract moving forward.

      Perhaps the next film will be titled Rubbisholia and Perry go large?

  11. Some excellent points here – everyone is quick to blame the binmen, but I’m convinced that the problem, mainly, boils down to council failures – a poorly-drafted contract, woeful monitoring and zero enforcement. The contract will have penalties in it for failures – I bet there have been almost no instances where these have been spotted and applied. Btw, faultless service here in once-leafy Kenley.

  12. I’ve probably used up my IC credit, but can I just say that I saw Veolia men on bicycles collecting waste in Singapore a few years ago?? Why not here in eco-friendly Croydon?

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