Weymouth & Portland Borough Council considers leaving DWP

Weymouth & Portland Borough Council has commissioned its officers to undertake a report into the impacts of leaving the Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP).

Recycle for Dorset service in action

The report, expected in ‘late summer’ or ‘early autumn’, will look at ‘alternative waste service options’ for the area’s 50,000 residents. It has been commissioned after local councillors found the DWP’s roll out of the 'Recycle for Dorset' service to be a ‘fiasco’.

Councillor Michael Goodman MBE, responsible for Community Safety at Weymouth & Portland Borough Council told Resource that since the council moved from its co-mingled recycling service with separate paper collections, to Recycle for Dorset’s co-mingled recycling service with separate glass collections in October, the kerbside recycling service has been ‘an absolute catastrophe’.

‘Fiasco from start to finish’

He said: “We agreed to adopt the Recycle for Dorset service for three key reasons: because of economies of scale, meaning delivery would cost less per household; because of the promise that the service standard would be as good as previously experienced; and because it was thought that the recycling rate would be increased. And so far, the partnership has delivered some improvements in recycling but by and large has not addressed the other two points adequately at all.”

Goodman stated that although the service has been working well in some areas of the county, the delivery in Weymouth & Portland has been less than satisfactory. He highlighted that the problem seemed to stem from the fact that the contractor had appointed a new subcontractor for the roll out of Recycle for Dorset in Weymouth & Portland, despite another subcontractor having been used for the previous three tranches of the roll out.

He stated: “It was a fiasco from start from finish. Houses that already had wheeled bins had them replaced with bags and sacks for some reason, and the new firm that was meant to deliver the bins didn’t turn up when they were supposed to. From there it’s gone on and on… people with assisted collections aren’t getting them done, alleyways aren’t being serviced that previously were, and green waste bins aren’t collected on the days they are meant to be – meaning bins are left out on pavements for consecutive days, as householders aren’t sure when they will be emptied.

“It’s just not been a satisfactory service and we at the borough council want the management of the partnership to step up and sort it out. If this were a commercial company, we would have fired them… but because it’s in-house, it would mean firing our own people, which is a different thing.”

Householders have also voiced frustration with the new offering, with the partnership reportedly receiving 1,400 complaints a day when the Recycle for Dorset service was first rolled out last year.

As such, the council is now looking at the cost of moving back to an in-house service. Goodman said: “We have to give 12 months notice if we want to come out of the service, and essentially we are asking for a report to be brought forward in summer to see what are our options, and what it will cost us to go it alone. Quite frankly, our residents deserve a better service than what they are currently getting. We hope that our actions might encourage the partnership to buck up and start delivering a decent service.”

DWP management inquiry

The DWP has been under increasing scrutiny recently, after councillors from the seven Dorset councils in the partnership agreed an action plan last month to ‘urgently improve the governance and financial management of partnership’.

It was announced at the beginning of March that the partnership had temporarily suspended its Director, Steve Burdis, whilst it undertook a review into how the body overspent on its budget by £2.8 million last year, including how £1.5 million was spent on hiring recycling vehicles ‘without a proper tendering process’ and why vehicle insurance details were not sent to the national database, as required by the law. 

Following three independent reviews – an internal audit led by the South West Audit Partnership, an efficiency review by Local Partnerships (co-owned by the Treasury and Local Government Association), and a strategic review by consultants WYG – councillors agreed an action plan bringing together the recommendations of all three reviews.

The 37 actions set out in the plan include:

  • giving earlier warning to councils of financial risks that may result in overspends;
  • holding monthly meetings to review progress on the action plan;
  • introducing better monitoring and reporting of vehicle hire;
  • giving clearer allocation of budget responsibility to key staff;
  • providing more training for budget holders to better manage and monitor budgets;
  • increasing human resources support to reduce staff absence; and
  • improving risk management and business planning.

Goodman stated that the lack of adequate management has also contributed to the problems in Weymouth, stating: “The supervisors and management at DWP have not put enough effort into the internal management structures, which we know have failed (for example, vehicles being hired without any form of approval) and supervision of the delivery of the Recycle for Dorset service has not been adequate. I think that the operatives are pretty much making the rules up as they go along, as there is no, or very little, on-site supervision.

“The partnership is not dealing with the questions we need dealing with, because it’s putting out the fires it started in the first place. Instead of addressing what went wrong financially and counting the beans, we should be asking the fundamental questions that will improve the service.”

Mike Harries, Dorset County Counci's Director for Environment and the Economy and Chair of the DWP Management Board, commented: "The Dorset Waste Partnership is working to the action plan agreed by all partners on the joint committee and is making good progress."

Find out more about the Recycle for Dorset service or Dorset Waste Partnership’s management inquiry.

Related Articles