Portsmouth City Council bins: Authority looks at taking waste collection services back in-house from Biffa

THE decision on whether to bring Portsmouth City Council waste collection services back in house is ‘finely balanced’, according to a cabinet report.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 10:04 pm

Two options are being considered by the Lib Dem administration for the service ahead of the expected end of the Biffa contract in early 2024: arranging a new deal with a private company or running the service within the council.

The initial eight-year contract, signed in October 2011, has already been extended twice and a further six-month option is likely to be used to take it beyond the current September 2023 end date.

Under this arrangement, the council pays Biffa all its costs for running the service, on top of paying it a profit. It said this had been ‘mainly positive’ and gave it a full understanding of the cost of waste collection in the city.

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Cllr Dave Ashmore, cabinet member for community safety and environment, fills up a Biffa bin lorry with HVO fuel with Biffa supervisor Michael Hobbs in the driver seat

But with a government overhaul of recycling requirements due in the next few years, and the addition of thousands of new homes to bin lorries' rounds the Lib Dem administration has 'has made it clear to officers', according to a cabinet report, that it wants to take over the service.

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A business case is already being put together for a £1.8m council-owned and run anaerobic biodigester facility for food waste.

Councillor Kimberly Barrett, whose cabinet role includes overseeing the work of waste services, said bringing the service in-house would benefit both the council and workers.

'The main thing is that it would allow us to offer workers additional conditions which would be beneficial to them,' she said. 'But it does also give us slightly more flexibility in the way we operate the service.

'This has been a Lib Dem priority for a long time and I'm glad it's coming to cabinet for discussion so the public can see the benefits it would bring.'

The council has not published financial details for either option, citing commerciality reasons related to the negotiation of the new arrangement.

But the report published ahead of Tuesday's meeting recommends a decision is made as soon as possible. 'Either of the options will require the work to implement the decision to start immediately to ensure service continuity,' it says.

It warns that an expected increase in the recycling requirements for local authorities and the construction of thousands of new homes since the start of the contract will increase the burden on the council.

'Housing growth during the last contract period has been managed by understanding capacity and working to make the rounds as efficient as possible,' it adds. 'There is little capacity left in the refuse or recycling rounds.'

The Environment Act will introduce nationwide standards for household recycling, weekly food waste collections and may also require councils to collect garden waste free.

Extra funding is expected from the government to cover much of this but the exact details have yet to be confirmed.

To facilitate these demands, the council will need to buy new vehicles and orders for the trucks can take as long as a year to complete.