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Shropshire Council's Veolia waste deal review due to start

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A review of Shropshire Council's controversial 27-year deal with waste giant Veolia is to start next week, it has been revealed.

Council chiefs want to alter elements of the contract, which was signed in 2007. The terms of the deal mean the total being spent on waste management by the council is increasing each year.

News of the start date for the planned talks was revealed in a paper that went to the council's performance management scrutiny committee earlier this week.

The paper said the waste review would look at issues relating to the contract and recycling.

Steve Charmley, cabinet member responsible for waste management, said: "As outlined in the Shropshire Council business plan, we will review all of our current contractual arrangements with partners, including the waste management contract with Veolia.

"Work to review this contract is expected to begin in the week beginning December 9."

The review has been suggested as one potential area of oversight for one of the council's new rapid action groups, which are being established to examine different areas of the authority's £80 million cuts plan for the next three years.

The shortfall is made up of a projected £45.2 million increase in spending, combined with a reduction in resources of £34.7 million.

As part of attempts to balance the books, the council is looking to review all of its current contracts, from its multi-million deal with Veolia down to its smallest contracts with schools, community groups and town councils.

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In September, council leader Keith Barrow said the deal with Veolia had "caused a nightmare" and he would not have signed the deal the authority ended up with.

The contract was signed by the former Shropshire Waste Partnership, which at the time was chaired by Councillor Barrow's wife Joyce.

In April this year, it was revealed the amount being paid to Veolia was going up by £548,000 to £25.8 million, up from £25.3 million in 2012/13.

Veolia collects domestic waste across the county and runs the area's recycling centres under the terms of the contract. The deal also included the building of the £60 million incinerator at Battlefield in Shrewsbury, which is expected to be complete in 2015.

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How contract turned into ‘nightmare':

Since starting in 2007, there have been several controversies involving Veolia's contract to dispose of rubbish across Shropshire:

  • October 2007: Veolia Environmental Services is awarded a 27-year Private Finance Initiative contract to manage all household waste services on behalf of Shropshire Council.
  • November 28, 2011: Shropshire Council and Veolia stop kerbside cardboard collections for 130,000 homes. Council officials said changes to national composting rules means that cardboard cannot be mixed with garden waste in green bins.
  • January 10, 2012: Government planning inspector John Woolcock gives the go-ahead for a £60 million incinerator to be built in Shrewsbury by approving Veolia’s appeal against a council planning committee’s decision to reject it in 2010. His decision followed a lengthy public hearing lasting for around a month-and-a-half.
  • February 29, 2012: Shropshire Council reveals a clause in the PFI contract meant it paid 90 per cent of Veolia’s appeal costs – £759,505. The council revealed the figures following an appeal to the Information Commissioners Office by the Shropshire Star after the authority had turned down a Freedom of Information request as it was “not in the public interest”.
  • January 23, 2013: Alternative forms of kerbside cardboard collections ruled out by council bosses as either too expensive or unworkable.
  • February 6, 2013: Council figures show cardboard recycling rates have dropped by almost 60 per cent since kerbside collections were axed in Shropshire.
  • April 24, 2013: It is revealed the amount being paid to Veolia by Shropshire Council will increase by £500,000 in 2013/14. The budgeted money to be paid is £25.849 million – up from £25.301 million the year before. The increase is put down to “annual inflation and the landfill tax increase”.
  • September 9, 2013: Shropshire Star reveals Shropshire Council’s cabinet agreed in June to expand the processing capacity of the incinerator from 90,000 to 95,000 tonnes in a behind-closed-doors meeting.
  • September 20, 2013: Council leader Keith Barrow tells public meeting in Shrewsbury the authority is seeking to renegotiate the Veolia contract. He says the contract has “has caused me a nightmare”.

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