Different not better? And why is the cost still ‘confidential’?

The cost of setting-up an in-house street cleaning service is still being kept under wraps despite the idea being given the green light at a council cabinet meeting on Monday night.

A spokesman for Hastings Borough Council (HBC) told Hastings In Focus today that because the cabinet’s decision had not been ratified by the full council information surrounding the cost of the project was still “confidential information” and the full costs are not likely to be in the public domain until after they have been approved.

Full council meets next Wednesday and it’s expected the plan to bring street cleaning back in-house at HBC will be agreed. It was one of the manifesto pledges made by the Labour group which controls the council in the run up to elections in May. However opposition leader Rob Lee is concerned.

Mr Lee, leader of the eight-man Conservative group on HBC is worried that to find the money to meet the cost of bringing the street cleaning service in-house jobs will have to go in other areas of the council.

Mr Lee and fellow Conservative cabinet member Andy Patmore both abstained on Monday night when the vote was taken on whether to approve the plan or not, “We’re happy with the concept of bringing the street cleaning service in-house but the proposal we have is expensive and I’m not sure the quality of the service it will provide will be any better.”

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HBC’s plan is to develop an in-house street cleaning and bulky waste removal service to replace the existing service provided by Kier Environmental when the current contract ends in June next year. On Monday six members of the cabinet voted for the proposals with the two abstentions from Mr Lee and Mr Patmore.

Councillors believe that local residents share the council’s unhappiness about the current contract with Keir Environmental,  Colin Fitzgerald, lead councillor for the environment said: “This is a priority issue for our town. A densely populated town like Hastings is extremely reliant on clean streets. Bringing the contract in-house would enable the council to react quickly to problem areas, for example, clearing overflowing litter bins on the seafront during bank holiday weekends rather than reporting it to the contractor and relying on them to deal with the problem.”

The proposed new service would operate seven days a week and would offer staff and management training with the council’s enforcement services that would enable them to better address issues such as breaches of trade waste rules and littering that comes from takeaways and cafes.

The council says the new service would also allow a more cost effective way of delivering bulky waste and fly tip removal and it points out that as those operating the service would be council staff they could be redeployed during severe weather to help clear snow and ice from public areas.

Managers of the new service will also consider offering it to other public sector partners such as Optivo, who operate large areas of social housing in the town. The refuse and recycling service will continue to be provided by a contractor, procured through the East Sussex joint waste partnership.

But Mr Lee fears the council could be planning to do something, “…just because it’s different, not because its better.”

He says that while it does seem logical to bring the service in-house it needs to be done in a sensible way. Mr Lee says that to funding the proposals being put forward for approval at next week’s full council meeting would, “…almost inevitably,” lead to job losses in other parts of the council to generate the funds to pay for it.

Issues surrounding the detailed costs for the scheme were discussed in the private session of Monday night’s cabinet meeting which means it is likely the same will happen at the full council as the agenda papers for the meeting say: “…the public (will) be excluded from the meeting during the discussion of any items considered while the public were excluded by the relevant committee…”

 

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