Government

DWP Director suspended over budget overspends

DWP Director suspended over budget overspends

The Director of the Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP), Steve Burdis, has been temporarily suspended from his role as the partnership reviews how the body overspent on its budget by £2.8 million last year.

The DWP, formed in 2011 to join-up waste services across Dorset, is formed of and funded by all seven Dorset councils (excluding Bournemouth and Poole) on a cost-sharing basis and is hosted by the county council, which employs its staff and provides its support services.

In a statement issued this morning (3 March), DWP revealed that Burdis had been temporarily replaced by Mike Harries, the county council’s Director for Environment and Economy and Chair of the DWP Management Board, and Steve Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Purbeck District Council, ahead of a council meeting next Wednesday (11 March) which will hear the findings of three separate, independent reviews into the DWP’s budget management, decision-making and use of hire vehicles.

The decision has been taken as part of ‘formal procedures in such circumstances’ and will be reviewed once members of the seven Dorset councils in the partnership hear details of how the partnership overspent on their budget by £2.8 million in 2014, including how £1.5 million was spent on hiring recycling vehicles ‘without a proper tendering process’ and details relating to issues in relation to DWP vehicle insurance.

The South West Audit Partnership undertook the vehicle hire review while Local Partnerships (jointly owned by the Treasury and Local Government Association) undertook an efficiency review of the DWP, and consultants WYG (commissioned by the chief executives of the partner councils) undertook a ‘fundamental review’ of the DWP.

WYG has also been appointed to provide temporary support to the DWP management team, oversee delivery of the improvement plan, and ‘restore confidence while ensuring vital services continue to be provided’.

The partnership expects next year’s budget to rise by £2.9 million to £32.5 million.

As such, the DWP Joint Committee meeting next week will discuss how the partnership can implement an ‘urgent improvement plan’ and approve an action plan to implement all their recommendations.

Cost-saving measures

The partnership has already begun consulting on measures to save money, including on proposals to begin charging residents for using household waste recycling centres (HWRCs).

The proposals include:

  • closing all HWRCs for two or three weekdays (saving up to £300,000 a year);
  • charging residents to dispose of non-household materials, such as DIY waste and tyres (saving £250,000 a year);
  • closing one or more of the HWRCs (saving up to £100,000 a year per site);
  • charging Dorset residents to use their HWRCs in neighbouring areas, which the DWP currently subsidises (saving £70,000 a year); or
  • charging for entry at one or more HWRCs instead of closing them (saving £65,000 a year per site).

However, some these proposals are in direct conflict with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) proposed legislation, which, if brought into effect, would prevent councils from introducing charges to residents disposing of household waste and/or recycling at HWRCs (however, charges for non-residents and non-household waste/recycling may still apply).

The government department released a discussion paper on the proposals in January, stating it was ‘concerned’ that HWRC charges would ‘inconvenience residents; increase fly-tipping and back-yard burning; and make recycling harder for people rather than… easier’.

After the launch of this discussion paper, DWP member East Dorset District Council came out in opposition of the partnership’s HWRC charging plans.

Councillor Mike Dyer, Lead Member for the Environment at East Dorset District Council, said: “We at East Dorset District Council have consistently opposed charges being introduced for residents taking household waste to any [HWRC].

“We agree with the government that [HWRC] charges will inconvenience residents, lead to an increase in fly-tipping and the burning of wastes and discourage recycling. We will be opposing any proposal to charge our residents for using any [HWRC] in our area or in any neighbouring authority.”

Find out more about the Dorset Waste Partnership and the partnership’s HWRC charging plans.

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