Borough's decision to keep outsourcing Northampton's environmental services will be reviewed after successful call-in

A decision to continue outsourcing environmental services such as bin collections and grass cutting to an outside firm in Northampton is to be reviewed, after opposition councillors criticised the authority's lack of consultation.

Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 4:23 pm
Rubbish on the Mounts in 2015.
Rubbish on the Mounts in 2015.

At the start of November, Northampton Borough Council, decided to continue with a private sector firm once the environmental services contract with Enterprise runs out in 2018.

The contract has, at times, been controversial with a number of criticisms over the quality of bin collections, grass-cutting and upkeep of cemeteries.

Last week the Labour group, which wants to bring the services to be run by the council again, called-in the decision to be heard again to be probed by the overview and scrutiny committee because they felt the council had not consulted widely enough.

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And following that meeting last night, the committee decided to make the Conservative cabinet review the policy, after a series of speeches by the opposition and members of the public.

Chair of the St James Residents' Association, Graham Croucher, said: "The present contract has failed, so why should we automatically opt for outsourcing the contract?"

Deputy ,mayor, Councillor Gareth Eales, added: "If you walk around the town,unless you walk around the town unless you walk around with a blindfold, you can see streets are littered with rubbish.

"People are sick to the back teeth. It's quite clear that outsourcing had failed."

The council said it took the decision to continue outsourcing in 2018 after enlisting Ipsos MORI to carry out 1,000 interviews with people in Northampton.

But Mr Croucher said community groups and parish councils should have been part of the consultation.

Lib Dem Councillor Brian Markham said a report compiled by Eunomia for the council did not come down in significant favour of either contracting services out or bringing them back in house, though it did marginally reccommend the contracting out option.

The council report that went to cabinet in early November proposed three options, but there was no option to continue outsourcing some elements of environmental services - such as cemetery maintenance - and not others.

The report by Eunomia also contained sections, which highlighted the downsides of contracting out services.

Reading out a passage, Labour Councillor Jane Birch, said: "A contracted option may be likely to suffer poor performance... A contractor is motivated by profit as well as customer service."

Indeed several councils across the UK, including Bristol and Hounslow, have brought their services back in-house recently.

Liverpool has recently ditched their contract with the same firm, Enterprise.

But leader of the council, Councillor Jonathan Nunn said the authority could not ignore the expert advice.

He said the decision to contract out the service was only the first part of the process and vowed to include parishes and community groups in future discussions about the "standards" expected in a new contract.

He said even considering mounting an in-house business case for delivering services would cost "hundreds of thousands of pounds."

He said: "The current contract has significant shortcomings.

"I get a lot of calls about grass cutting; I get a lot of calls about cleanliness.

"I don't think anyone will say the current contract is serving us good, but there's nothing I can do about that.

"What we have to do is move on from here."