The council plans to take over the collection of bulky waste – such as old mattresses, white goods and wardrobes – from the current contractor within months.
The move has been agreed even though one councillor had reservations about what the changes would mean to the council’s struggling Cityclean rubbish and recycling service.
Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that members of Brighton and Hove City Council were being asked to sign off the changes without a proper business case.
He voted against the proposed change, saying that it was ideologically driven because the Labour administration wanted to bring services “in house”.
But when litter enforcement was brought in house, he said, it had not been a success, adding: “There are no fines and our city is not getting any cleaner.”
Councillor Wares said that the current bulky waste collection service appeared to be working well and he had not had any complaints about it in Patcham ward.
Yet people there were “quite vocal”, he said, when they did not receive the level of service that they expected from Cityclean.
Green councillor Pete West, who supported the change, said that it was a shame that the current service did not include recycling. He said that many items were thrown away even though they were “perfectly serviceable”.
Bulky waste collections are due to become part of the commercial arm of Cityclean but Councillor West was concerned about the ability of Cityclean – even the commercial side of the organisation – to provide a good service.
The commercial operation offers garden waste collections, for which residents pay a fee, but this is currently suspended because of the coronavirus emergency.
At a meeting of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Urgency Sub-Committee at Hove Town Hall, Councillor West said: “We all worry about Cityclean’s capacity to deliver good services.
“I appreciate that this will be run by the commercial wing. That’s felt to be more insulated from the problems at the depot than refuse and recycling services.
“Nevertheless, I am aware there is a long list of people wanting to get a garden waste bin, which is run by the commercial service, and they haven’t got them yet.
“It’s not as though that area is without its difficulties.”
But despite its problems, which currently include high levels of staff absence because of the coronavirus restrictions, he added that people would be happier contacting the council than a contractor.
Councillors looked at Cityclean’s performance at a meeting before Christmas. The council’s Policy and Resources Committee was presented with a report in December which said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of missed refuse collections.
“The fire at Veolia’s Waste Transfer Station at Hollingdean on (Sunday) 25 August had a huge effect on Cityclean’s ability to carry out a normal collection service.
“It meant drivers had to drive to Newhaven to drop off loads (a three-hour round journey).
“Added to this there was also a higher than normal number of vehicle breakdowns, plus a high number of driver shortages caused by sudden and unexpected sickness, at a time when there have been vacancies and the summer break.”
A report to the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Urgency Sub-Committee, which met yesterday (Tuesday 25 March), said that Cityclean could even make a profit from bulky waste collections.
The current contractor, KSD, had held the contract for seven years, with extensions having been granted as a result of waivers.
The firm currently made more than 300 collections a month, generating about £10,000 to £11,000.
The in-house service was forecast to cost just under £120,000 a year to run and to bring in revenues of about £130,000.
KSD’s premises on the corner of Lewes Road and Moulsecoomb Way have just been demolished to make way for almost 400 student flats, with the company’s contract due to expire in June.
Labour councillor Anne Pissaridou, who chaired the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Urgency Sub-Committee meeting, wanted to bulky waste collection brought in house because the contract had been extended so many times.
She said, though, that there were more complaints about fly-tipping in her North Portslade ward than the bulky waste service.
Councillors Pissaridou and West voted to bring the service in house and to keep the current charges unchanged initially while a price review takes place. Councillor Wares voted against.