Privatisation Threat To Leeds Bin Service

21 Apr 2009

Refuse collection services in Leeds could be privatised unless bin crews agree to major changes in the way they work. Council bosses have started talks with trade unions over changes they say are needed to make the service more efficient and cost effective.

Staff have received letters inviting them to meetings and presentations to discuss the alterations the council wants to make, understood to include route changes and other measures.

And in a statement issued ahead of the talks, the council said: “If agreement cannot be reached with unions and staff on the improvement plans, the council will look to invite the private sector to bid to run the waste collection services in Leeds.”

The city has ambitious recycling targets and aims to be recycling over 50 percent of all household waste by 2020. Failure to do this will see the council face financial penalties for continuing to dump waste in landfill sites.

Council chiefs say that current collection costs must be reduced and run as efficiently as possible so that funding can be reinvested in new services.

According to the council, both in-house and independent reviews have identified where significant savings could be made.

Neil Evans, environment and neighbourhoods director, said: “We are seeking commitment from the unions and refuse staff to work together with us to make some fundamental changes in order that we provide residents with a service which is better value for money and flexible enough to meet recycling demands.”

Neil Derrick, of the GMB which, along with the Unison and Unite unions, represents refuse staff, reacted angrily to the privatisation threat. He said: “I am not happy we are being invited to talks with a gun being held to our heads in that the council is saying if it doesn’t get what it wants our members jobs will be put out to the private sector.”

Mr Derrick said the unions were prepared to sit down and talk with management and added: “The interests of Leeds citizens and the city council are both served best if the service is provided in-house, in a modern and professional way with proper investment having been put in by the local authority.

“We don’t think the people of Leeds would support the service being provided by the private sector.”

By David Marsh