Agenda item

Waste Contract Performance Paper

The Sub-Committee has been provided this report to inform and update on the performance of the Council’s waste collection and street cleansing contract and to identify areas of service improvement and management of known and emerging risks to the service. A legislative backdrop is also provided to inform Members of future challenges and opportunities.

Minutes:

The Sub-Committee considered a report set out on pages 19 to 44 of the agenda, which provided an update on the performance of the Council’s waste collection and street cleansing contract and identified areas of service improvement and management of known and emerging risks to the service. The Director of Sustainable Communities introduced the item and Scott Edgell (Veolia General Manager for South London & South) and Andrea Lowe (Veolia Senior Contract Manager) who went through a short presentation (Appendix 1).

 

The Chair requested an update on the recommendations made by the Sub-Committee at their last review of the waste contracts performance; these were:

 

1.     Veolia and the Council to work together on improvement to technology and interface connections.

2.     Veolia to conduct a survey of bin locations in the Borough.

 

The Director of Sustainable Communities informed Members that recommendation 1 had been progressed, and greater integration had been achieved by linking the online reporting process, which fed into the Council’s case management system, to Veolia’s back office systems to provide two-way communication. The ‘Love Clean Streets’ app had also been improved to allow updates to be given through the app to state whether a job had been allocated or completed. As a part of the contract management process, quality assurance checks had been picked up by the monitoring team to ensure tasks were not being marked as completed before being undertaken. On recommendation 2, Members heard that Veolia undertook surveys directly, but that a number were also carried out by the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP); this included the triennial survey that had recently been completed and could be shared with Members once the results had been compiled.

 

Members asked about consistent underperformance from Veolia and what the Council were doing to assist in improving this, and how Veolia had adapted services as a consequence. The Chair noted that the Council had served a Service Improvement Notice to Veolia in February 2022, and that there had been three contract management meetings held since May 2022. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that the contract contained a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with a required minimum level; there was a Performance Bond paid to the Council by Veolia, which was paid back when KPIs were achieved to a minimum level. The Council had not been satisfied with Veolia’s performance and had served a Service Improvement Notice due to performance against three main areas; these were missed collections, repeat missed collections and container delivery. Veolia had produced a plan in response to the Service Improvement Notice to rectify missed collections and repeat missed collections; discussions on container delivery were ongoing. Members heard that contract monitoring was multifaceted and that there were daily and weekly operational meetings, as well as structured monthly performance meetings that were fed back to the SLWP.

 

The Sub-Committee asked about missed collections reported via the Council, and asked how long these reports took to reach Veolia. It was explained that, if this was reported by the online system, it was automated and near instantaneous. The Chair asked about Croydon’s recycling rate, and the suggestion in the report that it was on track to reaching the Mayor of London’s target for 50% recycling by 2025. The Director of Sustainable Communities stated that Croydon had been at a near 50% rate before the pandemic, but that behaviour changes had led to a downward trend in recycling rates. For the current period, the provisional recycling rate was at around 46%.

 

Members requested clarity on whether commitments made at the beginning of the contract (on Street Grading, removal of street sweeping bags on the same day, washing of communal food waste bins, removal of weeds and moss from estates) had been retained or if any had been designed out of the contract. The Veolia Senior Contract Manager explained that communal bin cleaning had been adjusted and was now undertaken annually rather than quarterly. The Sub-Committee asked about performance for the collection of street sweeping bags and whether the public were relied on to report missed collections. The Veolia Senior Contract Manager explained that performance for this was contained within the report, and it was not the case that the public were relied upon to report missed bags; Veolia staff picked up hundreds of bags a day, with a morning and afternoon shift to ensure as few were missed as possible.

 

The Sub-Committee asked about weed and moss clearance on Council Estates and collection of communal waste from new buildings. Members heard that a lot of this was dependant on the developers and managing agents being proactive, but that it was a challenging area with crews taking many keys and fobs, as well as having to remember a large number of access codes, to ensure all communal waste could be collected. Consistency in crews was important in ensuring missed collections were minimised, but Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) driver and crew shortages had made this difficult to maintain. The Director of Sustainable Communities addressed weed and moss clearance on Council Estates and informed Members that the contract did not differentiate between estates and other streets. The contract did specify that streets needed to be maintained at a ‘Grade B’ level, and cleaned to a ‘Grade A’ level. Veolia supervisors did conduct checks to ensure that this was the case and this was also monitored by the Council’s contract monitoring team; this team also had fortnightly meetings with the Housing department to discuss the contract and any issues. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that communal waste access was a challenge and some standard advice on this had been put together for new developments. The Chair asked about how access issues to communal waste were resolved and heard that access issues could be caused by numerous reasons, and the fortnightly meetings between Veolia and the Council looked to address these. One of the big challenges of the contract was the contamination of waste on estates across the borough.

 

The Sub-Committee praised the ‘Love Clean Streets’ app and asked about reports of streets outside of Town Centres not being cleaned regularly and whether a schedule for street cleansing could be provided. The Director of Sustainable Communities responded that the contract for street cleansing was outcome based, and this meant that streets needed to be cleaned to a ‘Grade A’ and maintained at ‘Grade B’ standard; generally, streets were cleaned between daily and six weekly dependant on the street. Complaints that were received about streets below grade were assessed by Veolia and appropriate action was taken; this was monitored by Veolia and the Council. Members asked if autumn leaf drop meant that schedules for street cleansing were more frequent, and were informed that this was the case. The Chair asked about communications with residents on street cleansing and whether residents were aware of what street grading meant. Members heard that this communication could be better and more frequent and that information on the website could be refreshed, but that this was dependant on resource. On ‘Love Clean Streets’ app reports being closed before cases were resolved, the Sub-Committee heard that this was a work in progress and relied on the information provided by crews; previously where there had been multiple reports of one incident, these had all been closed bar one and it was acknowledged this was not the best approach and work on changing this was ongoing.

 

The Vice-Chair asked about enforcement and the strategy for tackling fly tipping hotspots identified through the ‘Love Clean Streets’ app. The Director of Sustainable Communities acknowledged that there was some reliance on public reporting, but that this would not be the case in a perfect world. The Council and Veolia were aware of fly tipping hotspots in the borough but had limited resources to do as much as they would like on tackling this; targeted clear ups did happen, alongside evidence gathering where possible. The Director of Sustainable Communities noted that there was a national trend in increased fly tipping and there was not a single solution to tackling this. The Vice-Chair requested information about on street bottle recycling that could help to alleviate litter from street drinking. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that different bin configurations had been trialled but the results were often that waste was contaminated and did not lead to increased recycling. It was acknowledged that there was room for additional bins in the borough, but that it might be better in some cases to encourage residents to take their litter home. The Veolia General Manager for South London & South explained that deposit return schemes could potentially reduce litter produced by street drinkers, and Veolia were engaged with the government on developing a scheme although it had experienced delays. Members head that the value of plastic recyclate had fallen and the cost was being borne by authorities where this should instead fall on the consumer through plastic and packaging taxes.

 

The Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment explained that they had met with a number of Friends and Residents groups, and that education on recycling was important in reducing the contamination of waste and that content on the website could be improved to this end. The Sub-Committee heard that the Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment was also working with the SLWP on their communications strategy, and that he was investigating best practise for dealing with fly tipping from other authorities alongside hotspot data. On who assessed street cleansing grading, the Sub-Committee heard that this was assessed by Veolia and the contract monitoring team when complaints were received; joint inspections with Veolia and Council monitoring staff also took place.

 

Members asked about the KPIs related to the performance bond and whether these were too ambitious. KPIs were not higher than other Partners in the SLWP but were more ambitious than some other boroughs. Members asked about tracking of cleansing of communal bins and heard that any specific cases be looked into outside of the meeting but that only food bins were cleaned. The Sub-Committee asked about tracking of weed and moss clearance, and heard that spraying of weeds was conducted three times a year and any specific issues could be looked into outside of the meeting. Members asked about collaboration with the Councils Highways team on reporting of street issues and heard that this did take place.

 

The Chair invited Councillor Ben-Hassel to ask a question on the duplication of reports on the ‘Love Clean Streets’ app and whether photos from the reports were available to crews and why some reports were closed without a reason. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that work to pass the photos from Croydon’s case management system to Veolia’s system was ongoing. The Veolia Senior Contract Manager explained that there were options for crews to list the resolution as ‘not found’ and to call managers for additional detail on the report. Councillor Ben-Hassel asked about garden waste collection and reports from residents that performance did not meet the data in the report, with some residents unable to report missed collections that were marked as completed. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that missed collections could be reported even if the website recorded it as collected; where residents could not do this as their collection was recorded as ‘locked out’ or ‘contaminated’ an enquiry could still be raised. The Veolia Senior Contract Manager added that residents could be prevented from reporting if their subscription to garden waste collection had lapsed. Councillor Ben-Hassel asked about how recycling rate targets could be reached with the challenges of flats above shops and properties with insufficient space for multiple bins. The Director of Sustainable Communities explained that the industry was changing, and the examples of potential deposit return schemes and plastic packaging taxes were given. The Veolia General Manager for South London & South informed Members that there were issues with food waste contamination in general waste, and improvement on this could dramatically improve recycling rates; plastic taxes would likely also have a major positive impact on recycling rates as manufacturers moved to higher quality plastics.

 

The Chair asked about the lapse in performance following an initial improvement after the Service Improvement Notice was delivered in February 2022. The Veolia Senior Contract Manager explained that peak annual leave times leading to greater agency and temporary staff use had contributed to this. There were efforts to increase recruitment to rectify this and keep a consistent service and performance levels. There had been some success in the recruitment of HGV drivers but this remained a significant challenge in a very competitive market. Veolia were offering HGV training to all staff, had run radio adverts, and were working with local job centres and linking in with First Military Recruitment to increase recruitment. The Vice-Chair asked about the possibility of publishing the action plan that had resulted from the Service Improvement Notice to increase transparency and the Director of Sustainable Communities responded that this is something they could consider.

 

Members asked about the distribution of fly tips in the borough and what actions the Cabinet Member would take to incentivise proper disposal of waste and to crack down on fly tippers. The Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment explained that they were gathering data currently, and looking at creating better education through the SLWP and the Council website, as well as being more proactive with hotspot data and relationships with Friends and Residents groups. There would be a campaign on fly tipping in early 2023 and a ward-by-ward approach to clean problem locations that was still being developed. The Director of Sustainable Communities added that there was a bulky waste collection service and three recycling centres open seven days a week; making sure residents were aware of these facilities would be a key part of the campaign to reduce fly tipping.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The Sub-Committee were concerned about the performance of the contract and were disappointed at the levels of improvement since the Service Improvement Notice had been served to Veolia in February 2022.

 

The Sub-Committee were positive about the ‘Love Clean Streets’ app, but were keen to see issues in passing photographic evidence on to Veolia’s street crews resolved.

 

The Sub-Committee concluded that an information sheet on street grading should be produced to inform Members and residents on what each grade meant.

 

The Sub-Committee asked for a future update on repeat missed collections for estates and the actions being taken to resolve this.

 

The Sub-Committee were positive about the communications plan being produced by the SLWP, and asked to be sighted on this once it was completed.

 

The Sub-Committee were of the view that access issues for communal waste should be mapped and included in future reports.

 

 

Recommendations

 

1.     The Sub-Committee were of the view that improvements to communications with residents needed to be a priority and should include updating the website and an explanation of street grading.

 

2.     The Sub-Committee recommended that communication with residents who had submitted reports on the ‘Love Clean Streets’ app needed to be improved to notify them on the resolution of the report.

 

3.     The Sub-Committee recommended that Veolia and the Council work with Friends and Residents groups to analyse and help to resolve issues with repeat missed collections. Members recommended that this is achieved through mapping areas of repeated missed bin collections, especially in relation to access issues, particularly with communal recycling bins.

 

4.     The Sub-Committee were of the view that the option to ‘raise an enquiry’ needed to be more prominent on the Council website when residents were trying to submit a missed collection report following 48 hours of the intended collection date, or when making a report was otherwise unavailable.

 

5.     The Sub-Committee requested that the Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment provided a full update on his data gathering and plans for reducing fly tipping in Croydon.

 

6.     The Sub-Committee asked that a street cleansing schedule is produced and published on the Council website in a similar way to waste collection schedules.

 

7.     The Sub-Committee recommended that the action plan that had resulted from the Service Improvement Notice was published to the Council website to increase transparency.

Supporting documents: