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District councillors have expressed their anger at FCC Environment at a special meeting to discuss the wide-ranging issues with bin collection.
A special meeting for South Hams District Council to hear from waste contractor FCC Environment was held at Follaton House today, Wednesday, 8 June.
Cllr Keith Baldry began by stating that the council had recieved "repeated assurances" from FCC over the reintroduction of the brown bin collection, which was suspended from September 2021 until March 2022, but that it had "spectacularly failed within six days".
He said he wanted to "restore [the council's] reputation" and reminded his colleagues that the roll out of the Devon Alliance Service had still not been completed, leaving many residents without the ability to correctly dispose of their food waste.
Leader of the council, Cllr Judy Pearce, called the service from FCC Environment "disappointing and disgraceful" but tried to deflect from the situation by accusing the leader of the opposition group of "turning it political" when councillors "should be working together" and said the Waste Working Group "had a plan on how to hold the contractor to account".
FCC Environment have had the contract for the waste collections since 2019 and these issues have been ongoing since the partial introduction of the new recycling scheme in October 2021.
Cllr Pearce said the plan included writing formal letters to FCC Environment and holding further meetings, but she was unable to say anything further about the plan on "legal advice".
Cllr Julian Brazil has said previously: "In 2018 SHDC had the second best rubbish collection record in the whole country. Only 55 collections were reported as missed. At the end of that year, the Conservative administration voted to out-source the service." We now know that in just the two months of April and May this year, there were more than 60,000 missed collections.
The service from FCC Environment is thought to be costing £400,000/year more than before.
Most councillors who asked questions of the two FCC Environment represetnatives who attended, Mr Ashby and Mr Longdon, explained their frustration with the service and acknowledged that South Hams residents deserved better.
In answer to most of the questions, the FCC spokespeople said they couldn't comment on specifics due to "ongoing discussions with SHDC".
Conservative Cllr Nicky Hopwood said: “All we get is excuse after excuse".
In a statement before the meeting, FCC Enviroment said: "We are operating an average absence level of 14% and, along with other issues which have made ongoing recruitment challenging, this has made delivering the service problematic. Notwithstanding these issues, the residents have a right to expect a good and reliable service."
Mr Ashby did say that FCC Environment had raised driver salaries in a bid to attract and retain staff, but a search on their webiste revealed that they don't share their salaries on their job vacanies, calling them "competitive", while the job site Indeed stated that the average wage for a driver at FCC Environment was £12.03/hour, six percent below the national average.
FCC Environment bragged in March 2022 that it had "doubled its net profit and increased its operating profit by 7.6 percent" and the FCC Group "ended the ended the 2021 business year with an attributable net profit of 580.1 million euros [£495,890,348]".
Meanwhile, elderly South Hams residents are dragging heavy brown bins to their curbs every two weeks, only to have to drag them back down again, unemptied.
You can view the whole meeting on South Hams District Council's social media below:
Allerdale Borough Council in west Cumbria had similar issues with FCC Environment and said in 2019 it would be terminating FCC Environment's £25m contract next April and bringing the service in-house.
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