An update on waste collections in the south of the county

A letter to residents from Martin Tett regarding disruption to our waste services in the south of the county.

Dear resident,

I’m very sorry for the continued disruption to bin collection services that some residents in the south of the county are currently experiencing. I know that we are falling short of the level of service that you rightfully expect and for this, I again apologise.

Whilst the vast majority of bins continue to be collected as expected, for a significant minority of residents the service has been poor. I have received numerous letters and emails on this subject and I wanted to let you know what is happening and the action that is currently being taken.

The collection of bins in the former Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks District areas is contracted to a company called Veolia. Buckinghamshire Council inherited this contract from the former District Councils. It was to come into effect when their previous contracts with Serco and Biffa expired. Within the contract, Veolia planned to undertake a round reorganisation. In theory, this was a good idea as it would reduce the average number of bins each round was required to collect and would allow time for better customer service, such as replacing the bins better. The round reorganisation also moved away from the former District boundaries and operated more logically across all three former areas.

In advance of the round change we were not experiencing a significant issue with missed bins, although Veolia anticipated that there would be some limited and short-term disruption when the rounds were reorganised. However, the degree of disruption and its length has far exceeded that which we were led to expect. In addition, there have been far too many repeated failures and, in some cases, misleading reports from Veolia that bins have been collected when they clearly have not.

Buckinghamshire Council has also had some learning from this situation. In anticipation of the change, we added extra staff to our Customer Service teams; however this proved to be too few given both the number of complaints and the fact that it coincided with the time when residents without a Direct Debit had to claim the Government’s £150 support grant. This led to longer wait times for telephone enquiries. Again, I apologise to those impacted.

Since the scale of the problem became apparent, the council’s Waste Team has been meeting daily with Veolia to escalate cases, resolve issues and demand a recovery plan in which we have confidence. Our clear aim is to restore a reliable bin collection service to all residents in the south of the county as soon as possible.

Our priorities are to collect the bins that have been missed as soon as possible and to put in place a set of robust measures to avoid future missed collections.

We are aiming to collect all missed bins in the coming days by agreeing with Veolia to dedicate up to 10 extra bin lorries and crews solely working on collecting missed bins. If your bin is missed, please report it via the council’s website as this is the most direct route to log it on our system. If you have already reported a missed collection, we know and we are coming to collect your bin in the next few days, so please leave those bins out for collection.

This is also how we can ensure that those with a chargeable Garden Waste collection service can be compensated – by extending the subscription without further charges if the collection is reported missed. There is no need to contact the council about extending your subscription if you have reported a missed bin as this will be arranged automatically in the coming weeks.  An additional 17 staff have been added to our Customer Service Centre to make contacting us easier if you do have a problem.

We have also put in place a package of measures to prevent as far as possible further missed collections:

the new round routes have been reviewed and improved to ensure they are manageable for crews

we have brought two extra garden waste vehicles into use to provide extra resource and resilience

we have put another two empty vehicles ‘on call’ to take over if the regular collection vehicles are full before the end of the round

we have dedicated supervisors out on the road to quickly go where they may be needed to respond to particular issues

we have given information packages to crews in areas where we have missed multiple properties so we can ensure these properties are identified and not missed again

detailed morning and evening briefing sessions are being held with crews to review the day and make sure we know where any problems have occurred, so they’re not repeated

It is my sincere regret that you have experienced this disruption and for the inconvenience, frustration and distress that all of this has no doubt caused. It is my deepest hope that you will soon begin to see an improvement in the level of service that you receive, and I am monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

To help answer some of the other questions that you have been asking us about the changes and the disruption to service, we have published a set of frequently asked questions and answers.

Thank you for your patience while we work hard to resolve this as quickly as possible for you.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Tett

Leader of Buckinghamshire Council