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South Hams District Councillor Julian Brazil has said the "levels of incompetence are jaw dropping" surrounding the new Super Recycling Service, which he called "a shambles".
Cllr Brazil released a statement on social media today, Friday, 28 May, informing local residents that there will be two meetings next month about the system after "the administration refused, on numerous occasions, to allow the issue to be discussed at the Annual meeting last Thursday".
Cllr Brazil said: "A number of areas are still not having their recycling collected, some for many weeks. On top of this we have reports of rubbish falling from vehicles and blowing along the streets. The whole system is a shambles.
"SHDC keep telling us things are getting better - but they're not. My colleague, Cllr John Birch, has succeeded in forcing the council to have a meeting on 10 June and then an Extra-ordinary Full Council on the 17. All this could have been avoided but the administration refused, on numerous occasions, to allow the issue to be discussed at the Annual meeting last Thursday.
"As councillors, we have been briefed but confidentially. Suffice to say the levels of incompetence are jaw dropping. Following research by Cllr Denise O'Callaghan, it came to light that around the time SHDC was majority voting to give the service to FCC, Allerdale Council was terminating their contract. They were suffering many of issues we are now facing in the South Hams. [Clarification on this point is below]
"The public have a right to know if senior officers and councillors were aware of this and if not why not? I wonder if those councillors who were so keen to see the service outsourced might publicly apologise?
"You deserve better."
Cllr Denise O'Callaghan explained: "After we councillors were told recently there had been no other problems with the waste contractor FCC in other areas of the country I carried out a simple online search and established that Allerdale council in the North West of England had similar issues with its FCC waste contract back in 2019 from Spring onwards, and the service was brought back in-house eventually at the end of that same year.
"I’m surprised that this information was not brought to light earlier.”
A spokesperson for FCC Environment, who runs the service, said: "On 1 April 2019, FCC Environment began providing all waste, recycling collection and street and toilet cleaning services on behalf of South Hams District Council extending the company's existing contract with West Devon Borough Council to deliver a range of benefits to residents in both communities.
"The waste and recycling service in West Devon, which mirrors the system rolled out in South Hams, has been successfully operating for over 10 years and residents have responded well. The new recycling vehicles now in use in South Hams have been in use in West Devon since March 2018.
"The new recycling system which is currently being introduced in South Hams is considered 'best in class' by many other local authorities in England, has been carefully designed to maximise the amount of materials collected for recycling. The system also delivers improved quality recyclate which means the materials will go on to be recycled into new products.
"Behind the scenes this system has been far from easy to implement in South Hams and FCC acknowledge that there have been service issues for some residents for which we apologise. These teething problems have resulted in some residents experiencing missed collections and we are truly sorry for any inconvenience and difficulties this has caused and continues to cause as we work with the council to rectify.
"It should also be noted that the system was designed on the basis of recycling vehicles filling up once a day and being emptied at the end of the working day but due to the home working implications of lock downs through 2020-21 and residents saving recycling for the new system to launch, the vehicles can fill up, up to 2 to 3 times a day, so they need to travel back to the depot and unload each time but we are making our way through the implications of such increased volumes.
"We are working hard to collect from residents that have been missed and to collect from the harder to reach properties on our rounds and we are getting there but we would ask residents, particularly those who have had repeated missed collections, to bear with us at this time.
"We have been questioned about the vehicles being too large for some areas; the vehicles selected to deliver this service are state of the art recycling vehicles and they are sized to maximise the collection of recycling across the District. We do ask residents to follow council advice to place their recycling bins and boxes in the right places for collection. We appreciate for some that this may mean changes to the way their recycling has been collected previously but we ask for your support on this.
"We are asking residents to bear with us in the coming weeks while these multi-faceted issues with this complex recycling scheme are ironed out and we remain confident that, once these hurdles have been overcome, that the service we have been contracted to deliver across South Hams and West Devon will deliver all of the benefits promised at the outset."
South Hams District Council has not responded immediately for a request for comment, we will update this story as soon as we receive one (but we're not expecting a response until after the Bank Holiday Weekend).
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