Thursday 7 January 2016

Scrutiny Committee delves into green bins

Some of the issues raised on Rik Smith's guest blog on the green bin charge LINK came up at the Brent Scrutiny Committee last night.

Cllr Duffy expressed doubts about the report's claim that the charge had not resulted in more garden waste going into grey bins but Chris Whyte, head of Environment Management, said that this had been confirmed by 'visual inspections', officers would take it up if it became apparent there was a problem.

Duffy said that he would expect weekly, rather than fortnightly, collections of the blue bin dry recycling, should have resulted in less going into the residual grey bins, but this had not been the case. Whyte said this could be accounted for by an increase in the borough's population, an explanation that Duffy did not accept.  Former environment lead member Cllr Keith Perrin asked if the council were collecting enough dry recycling now to merit weekly collections.

Dumped Christmas trees in Chalkhill Friday January 8th 2016
Officers were urged to do more to increase take up of compost bins by residents. Fly-tipping was a major concern with the report claiming that after an initial surge there had been no substantial increase in the fly-tipping of garden waste but Cllr Southwood conceded that the council needed to be more pro-active regarding the collection of Christmas trees. Chris Whyte said that the council had an obligation to pick up any tree left in the street and did not want residents without green bins to put them into blue bins as this would encourage them to use them for organic waste throughout the year.

There was close questioning on contamination  of dry recycling by organic waste and of the additional cost of fly-tipping. Although fly-tipping came under a single contract charge by Veolia, so there was no additional charge for any increase in fly-tipping, it did cost in terms of an increase in landfill tax.

There was extensive discussion on making the 'Cleaner Brent' smart phone app LINK more widely known and it was agreed that it could be demonstrated at Brent Connects meetings.

On missing statistics for Q3 in the report Chris Whyte explained that the figures would be available but there was a lag in gathering the data from various data points.

The Committee agreed a recommendation from Cllr Nerva that the council consider distributing organic waste collection bags at libraries and other centres (he suggested five bags for £10) so that residents without green bins or compost bins could recycle at kerbside.

The issue of dry recycling and organic waste collections from flats and multi-occupied houses continues to be an issue and there were calls for enforcement of an obligation via the licensing scheme for landlords to ensure efficient recycling.

Cllr Duffy asked why Veolia had retained £40,000 of the £120,000 additional revenue from the better than expected take-up of the green bin charge. He had fought for the council to retain the whole amount. Chris Whye said that this had been reinvested by Veolia in an additional vehicle to cope with the 3,000  extra green bin customers. Duffy was not satisfied with this, suggesting that Veolia's initial costing must have included some leeway for extra capacity.

Intervening Cllr Perrin said he was concerned that there didn't seem to have be a mechanisom for the allocation of the £120,000 including the retention of £40,000 be Veolia. Was it a one off payment or an annual charge?

The chair, Cllr Kelcher, allowed me to ask a question from the public gallery. I asked about the claim in the report (6.1) that 35% of the reduction in green waste collected would be because it 'would no longer be produced'. I suggested that there was a wider environmental consideration here including the paving over of front gardens to reduce vegetation or the burningof garden waste affecting already poor air quality in the borough.  Chris Whyte had no information on this but said it was a consideration.


Anonymous said...

So the only thing agreed was to sell us some more rubbish sacks. Pathetic.

Jaine Lunn said...

As I didn't sign up to the Garden Tax £40 pa, my Green Bin remains outside my property full to the brim. As the Committee agreed a recommendation by Cllr Nerva, instead of purchasing a bag could I not have my Green Bin emptied if I pay £2.00 everytime I request the service? I would have happily agreed to that if I had been consulted as I only fill my Green Bin approx 3 times per year. £6.00 as opposed to £40.00 is definitely a cost saver for me. Oh and whilst on the subject please could you remove it's little friends at no cost as no-one uses the 2 Food Caddies which are in pristine brand new condition, keeping the Green Bin company.

Martin Francis said...

Scrutiny's recommendation will go to Cabinet with an officer response about feasibility. It may not happen... Why not write to your local councillors and Cllr Nerva with your idea?

Anonymous said...

So The Garden Tax raised £120,000 more than expected yet Veolia - [What a bloody nerve] TOOK £40K - THAT IS ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!

At a time of cuts, this is unacceptable - I hope Cllr's don't stand for this and ask for it back!
Time to revoke their contract so that what was once 'profit' can be reinvested in Brent Services.

Scott Bartle.

Alison Hopkins said...

I don't actually blame Veolia. I do blame the consultant who was paid £60K to build the Public Realm contract, and the officers who manage it - and that's Chris Whyte's remit. See, if you don't build and manage an outsourcing contract properly, the contractor can and will maximise the money they can make from change control. And that's what has happened. I bet that cancellation of the contract has massive penalty clauses.