Cumberland Council will press ahead with a controversial plan to outsource kerbside waste and recycling before September’s local government elections.
The Western Sydney suburbs council, born out of a forced merger between Holroyd and Auburn Councils and part of Parramatta in May 2016, has put the council’s waste and recycling services out to tender with a deadline of May 26.
Up for grabs are services include kerbside garbage; recyclables; organics and garden waste; council clean ups and picking up dumped rubbish and this covers around 70,000 housesholds.
This translates annually into dealing with around 60,000 tonnes of garbage; 14,000 tonnes of recycling and 5,500 tonnes of organic and green waste, as well as two to four council clean ups a year and collecting dumped rubbish within 24 hours of it being reported.
Government News understands that new contractors could take over from as early as August. They will manage the transition to a new service and begin a four-year contract from January 2019 with the option to extend this by three years.
Council Administrator Viv May commissioned reviews into council services, including garbage collection and council swimming pools, after taking over last year.
The waste review, written by council officers, showed a marked preference towards outsourcing services to the private sector and argued that the council could cut its costs by 20 per cent through bigger contracts and reduced operating costs.
Most of the council’s waste and recycling services are currently delivered by council garbos, apart from waste services in Woodville Ward, which used to come under Parramatta Council, and the recyclables collection in the former Holroyd Council area.
Mr May has copped flak from former Holroyd Mayor Greg Cummings, as well as resistance from the United Services Union (USU), which represents local government workers in NSW.
Mr Cummings said Mr May was ‘overstepping his responsibilities’ and driving changes through before the council went into caretaker mode in early August.
“This is done at break-neck speed to make sure it’s done before an elected council can review it,” Mr Cummings said.
“By all means collect the information and get a report but it should be there ready for the democratically elected council to review.”
Mr Cummings said Mr May was known to be an enthusiastic advocate of outsourcing and had a track record in that area.
Mr May spent 27 years as Mosman Council’s General Manager where he outsourced the council’s outdoor work and reduced council employed outdoor workers from more than 100 to six.
Mr Cummings also criticised the council for omitting diversion to landfill in the tender. He said that the former Holroyd Council had managed to divert 62 per cent of green waste from landfill using UR-3R alternative waste treatment plant in Eastern Creek.
But Cumberland Council’s Group Manager, Roads and Waste Peter Fitzgerald defended the decision to go out to competitive tender.
He said the council’s review estimated it would yield more than $16 million in savings and ensure a more consistent service. It would also finally give Woodville ward residents a green waste bin so they would no longer have to trek to the council’s depot.
“Given that the existing contract for waste services in the Woodville ward expires in November this year council could not wait any longer to make a decision about the provision of waste services,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“Council must provide a consistent service to all residents irrespective of which part of the council area they live in.”
He said around 34 council staff would be affected by decision.
“All affected council staff have been assured that if they want a job with council they will still have a job with council, regardless of the decision to call tenders for these services,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
Mr May told Government News in October last year that Administrators had the same powers as mayors and councillors and would make decisions accordingly.
The USU is not convinced and has come out against the outsourcing plans, arguing that service levels will drop and rates will rise. It led a public rally against Cumberland Council outsourcing in February.
The USU website says of the tender: “We all know that private waste collection companies don’t care about ratepayers or the local community, they only care about one thin: delivering profit margins to their shareholders.
“The contractors won’t have time to do missed services or go the extra mile by taking your bin in if you can’t. Yes, that’s what the hard working council garbos do for the community.”
But disentangling the legacy of three different councils’ waste and recycling services will not be easy.
The council will have to pay out staff redundancies and long service leave along with paying penalties on any contracts which are terminated early, some of which do not expire until 2020.
The United Services Union has been contacted for comment.
More to follow.