Why did a £1 million street cleaning budget saving at Wirral Council end up actually costing £875,919?
Last year, after requesting the Biffa contract during the audit, I published the part that related to street cleansing.
What Wirral Council failed to give me then were the extra pages that had varied the street cleansing part of the contract from 1st July 2013 to try to save a million pounds.
Here was what was in the original contract under minimum cleansing frequencies:
7.6 Minimum Cleansing Frequencies
7.6.1 The minimum Cleansing frequencies required by the Council at each location shall be in accordance with that outlined below and the appropriate zoning allocation.
The alleyways were (before July 2013) being cleaned every four weeks as detailed in this part of the contract:
“7.11 Cleansing of Entries
7.11.1 The Contractor is required to thoroughly Cleanse all Entries in the Borough, as detailed in Appendix 9.9.1, once every four Weeks, in accordance with this Specification irrespective of the volume or type of material to be removed.
7.11.2 All Cleansing operations shall be carried out at the time of visit to include the removal:
126.96.36.199 Litter (including animal faeces);
188.8.131.52 Dead weeds;
184.108.40.206 Any other items.
7.11.3 Some Entries are gated. The Authorised Officer will issue gate keys to the Contractor at the commencement of the Contract. Should the Contractor lose any keys, then the Contractor shall be liable for the cost of replacement keys.
7.11.4 The Contractor shall allow for this within the tendered price, and no additional payment shall be made.
7.11.5 The Contractor shall submit a schedule for these Works to the Authorised Officer for approval prior to the commencement of the Contract. The Contractor is required to request prior written approval from the Authorised Officer before amending the agreed work schedule.”
So how did how often the streets were cleaned change?
I’ll briefly mention here what zones 1 to 4 refer to:
“220.127.116.11 Zone 1 – Town centres, shopping centres, shopping Streets, major transport centres, central car parks and Locations adjacent to these (e.g. footways, highways, passageways, etc);
18.104.22.168 Zone 2 – High density residential area, suburban car parks and transport centres;
22.214.171.124 Zone 3 – Low density residential areas, other transport centres and areas of industrial estates;
126.96.36.199 Zone 4 – All other areas.”
The frequency of cleaning in zone 1 stayed the same.
Zone 2 (residential areas and transport centres) changed from being cleaned manually weekly and mechanically fortnightly to four weekly.
Zone 3 which was cleaned manually and mechanically on a monthly basis changed in some places to every 12 weeks
Zone 4 (the more rural parts of Wirral) changed from being cleaned manually every month and mechanically every three months to every twelve weeks.
Instead of alleyways being cleaned every 4 weeks, it was now every 12 weeks.
The unions at the time warned of a “tidal wave of filth” and threatened to go on strike.
So how much did this “£1 million saving” actually cost?
The accompanying report goes into the detail. Biffa only agreed to the contract change if Wirral Council paid its worker’s redundancy costs and retirement costs. How much did this come to?
Well a £1 million “transitional fund” was started. £360,000 was used to pay redundancy costs, £101,975 “Biffa operative augmentation costs” (presumably early retirement costs), £250,000 of this fund was used as the change started in July 2013 and not at the start of Wirral Council’s financial year. Wirral Council also bought two pavement sweepers at a cost of £134,746 and litter bins at a cost of £29,198.
So this “£1 million saving” ended up costing £875,919!
However the detail in the report shows even the promised “£1 million saving” won’t happen as:
Wirral Council is paying an extra £95,000/year for an extra cleaning crew for the alleyways.
£105,000/year has been allocated to a Good Neighbour Campaign including a “waste investigation unit”.
A £30,000 reserve is being used to offer free replacement green or grey bins to those in terraced properties.
Wirral Council also has increased costs because many of those who are getting fixed penalty notices for littering are not paying the fine leading to these lines in the report “This is leading to a large number of cases needing to be prepared for the Magistrates Court. Steps are being taken to manage the increase in administrative and legal resources required to take the cases to court. Many littering offenders are from deprived areas of the borough and have contacted us to state they cannot afford to pay the penalty charge.”
So who decided to “save £1 million” from the street cleansing budget? Well it was part of the budget for Wirral Council for 2013/14 agreed back in 2013 by Labour councillors on the recommendation of the Labour Cabinet. Councillors on Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee will discuss these issues next Tuesday evening.
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