By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
QUESTIONS have been raised about the £96 million contract awarded to Bristol’s new waste company, after their performance was branded “dreadful and unacceptable”.
May Gurney are taking over from SITA as the company that will deal with the city’s rubbish collection and street cleaning for the next seven years.
But the company was forced to apologise to residents in neighbouring North Somerset after a poor performance last Christmas.
The leader of North Somerset Council Nigel Ashton condemned the firm for “not having a plan B or C” to deal with rubbish collections in freezing conditions.
Speaking in January, he said he “read them the riot act” and that May Gurney had “used up all their chances” after a series of problems.
Labour councillor for St George West Ron Stone submitted half a dozen questions to Bristol’s executive member for waste Gary Hopkins to Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
Mr Stone is concerned about the issues May Gurney had in North Somerset and wanted reassurances Bristol wouldn’t suffer the same sort of problems.
He said: “What arrangements have you made to ensure that Bristol residents do not experience the same difficulties in making complaints about service failures that were widely reported North Somerset, and do not occur in Bristol with the new contract?
“How do you reassure Bristol residents that they can have confidence in your decision to give ‘preferred bidder’ status to May Gurney and that they will deliver standards of service to Bristol that our residents are entitled to expect?”
May Gurney is one of the biggest waste companies in the country,
currently delivering services to 21 local authorities serving more than 2.2 million households.
It has had successes in other parts of the country, nearly doubling West Oxfordshire’s recycling rates from 34 per cent to 66 per cent in six months and moving Bridgend from the second worst area in Wales for recycling to the top five.
The new contract with Bristol will save the authority an estimated
£2.5 million a year and see the introduction of new services like plastic recycling collections.
Mr Hopkins explained that the council had the ability to terminate the contract if the company repeatedly failed to deliver to a high enough standard.
He said: “It is not appropriate to comment on the quality of the process carried out to procure the contract in North Somerset and the service then delivered.
“We are aware of the apology but do not consider this to be relevant to the new contract Bristol has, nor do we anticipate such an apology being required.
“There are no concerns over May Gurney’s ability to provide the service outcomes we have specified.
“A significant part of the contract mobilisation period from now until contract commencement in November is a comprehensive communications plan, to give residents confidence in our new contractor.
“The communication plan includes a program of press releases and other activities, which will inform residents how and when new services will be delivered.”