Updated: 8 Sept 2023 @10:25am
Damning evidence in an independent Audit report concludes that Folkestone & Hythe District Council, a Green led council, is failing in its responsibilities to comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1990
In Report Number AuG/23/13 which will go before the Audit & Governance Committee on the 13 Sept, between pages 9 & 12 the report gives No Assurance for the street cleansing part of the contract. Street Cleansing is supposed to be undertaken by Veolia and monitored by the Council. The Council fail to monitor and Veolia fail to provide the service. That is not best value, nor is it value for money for the ratepayer of the district who already pays the highest council tax in Kent.
The elected Cllr directly responsible for street cleansing is, Cllr Jeremy Speakman (Green) responsible for Waste management and street cleansing, property and estate management, corporate health and safety, grounds maintenance, area officers.
It also affects the portfolios of the following Cllrs – Cllr Stephen Scoffham (Green), Cabinet Member for Climate, Environment and Bio Diversity; Cllr Polly Blakemore (Green), Cabinet Member for Transport, Regulatory Services and Building Control; Cllr Tim Prater (Lib Dem), Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance.
The Council Officers responsible for the Contract are: Ewan Green, Director of Place and Amandeep Khroud Assistant Director – Governance, Law and Regulatory Services
Report Number AuG/23/13 at page 9 – 2.5 Contract Management of Waste Collection (Reasonable assurance) & Street Cleansing (No Assurance) states at 2.5.2:
The Waste Collection and Street Cleansing contract is a joint contract between Dover District Council and Folkestone and Hythe District Council. It commenced in January 2021 for an eight-year period with an estimated total value of around £44 million. For 2022/23 the Folkestone and Hythe District Council paid Veolia £5,215,161 [net] of which, around £1.5 million related to Street Cleansing, the remainder relating to Waste Collection.
Now the first thing to mention is that the £5.2m (net) referred to above is NOT in the Council’s payment data for the financial year 2022/23. If we add on the VAT at 20% to the £5.2m we arrive at £6,258,193. However the Council’s payment data shows Veolia were paid the sum of £27,295 (gross).
£6,258,193 (gross) minus £27,295 (gross) = £6,230,898 (gross). This sum across 12 months cannot be found in the council’s published payment data. It is not the first time financial data has gone AWOL from the Council’s payment to suppliers data, nor will it be the last we suspect.
The Audit report for Contract Management of Waste Collection & Street Cleansing makes it clear, the Council is required to comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In order to ensure compliance with the Act, DEFRA produce a Code of Practice on Litter & Refuse to give duty bodies more detailed information on the actions needing to be taken to ensure compliance with the Act. In failing to comply with the Defra Code of Practice, the Council is also failing to comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1990. And this is a Green Party led Council failing to comply with Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is no blaming Cllr Monk, he is history.
It is a travesty when our Green led Council fail to comply with their responsibilities as set out in the DEFRA Code of Practice on Litter & Refuse, and breach the Environmental Protection Act 1990. They can Save Princes Parade but not our streets from looking like sh*t.
The report goes onto say:
Monitoring routines are considered to be not working to such an extent that the standards set out in the contract are not being delivered, and no effective action is being taken against the contractor for not delivering. The Council has no option other than to meet the minimum standards set out in the Defra Code. The contract already fails to meet all of those standards. The Council cannot accept a lower standard than the Defra Code as required by the Environmental Protection Act, and should be enforcing the standards set out in the terms and conditions within the contract.
Management can place No Assurance on the system of internal controls around the contract management of the Street Cleansing function and Reasonable Assurance on the system of internal controls around the contract management for the Waste Management function
Regarding the street cleansing part of the contract that’s damning stuff by the East Kent Audit Partnership who undertook the audit. The rest of the report on street cleansing is no less damning as well and it is best left, as written, as the report pulls no punches.
The primary findings giving rise to the No Assurance opinion in respect of the contract management of street cleansing are as follows:
• The contract states that ‘the Contractor shall cleanse all areas covered by the Agreement so that they are Grade A standard’, however inspection results show areas to be at grade B 97%, and grade C 3% of the time meaning that the Council is paying for the District to be cleansed to grade A, but receiving a grade B service.
• Where monthly inspections identify areas as needing attention by Veolia, no process is in place to confirm that the contractor has completed that work in accordance with the requirements of the contract.
• Despite the street cleansing function being a 7 days a week service. The Council monitors the contract 5 days a week Monday to Friday. No monitoring is undertaken during busy weekend periods.
• Zone Z (these are town centre’s, eg Folkestone High St, Hythe High St ) areas are not being cleansed to grade A by 08:00 each day as is required by the contract, and are on many occasions being cleansed to grade C. Where zone Z areas are not grade A by 08:00, they are also not being restored to grade A by 11:00 as is required by the contract. Despite this, the Council has not raised any penalties against Veolia for failing to comply with the requirements of the contract.
• Evidence in the sampling highlighted that Veolia is closing jobs as complete when they have not been started. In doing so, Veolia is avoiding the cost of completing the work, and possible financial penalties for not being able to complete the job within the rectification period specified in the contract.
• Section 3.3.4 (B) of the contract states that ‘The Contractor shall cleanse all areas covered by the Agreement so that they are Grade A standard’. Review of 1,474 inspections undertaken by Council inspection staff in the period January to April 2023 recorded most areas to be at Grade B or C meaning that while the Council is paying Veolia to cleanse the District to grade A, it is essentially only receiving a Grade B and, in some cases, only receiving a grade C.
Mechanical sweeping is not being undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the contract; despite this no penalties have been raised by the Council against Veolia for failing to provide mechanical sweeping in line with the contract.
• Despite the Council paying £85,285 pa for the cleansing of car parks, Veolia is failing to cleanse them in accordance with the requirements of the contract.
• Veolia is failing to ensure that gulley/drain gratings on public highways and car parks are not blocked with refuse, fallen leaves, weeds and blossoms, or any other matter as part of his normal cleansing duties. Despite this, Veolia have not raised any financial penalties against themselves for failing to comply with the requirements of the contract. Similarly, the Council has also not raised any penalties against Veolia in respect of blocked gulley gratings and drain covers.
• Veolia is failing to keep areas free from detritus which consequently results in excessive weed growth across the district. They are then also failing to remove weeds and grass from hard surface areas across the whole of the District as is required by the contract.
• Penalties are not being raised by the Council against Veolia where Inspectors identify that Veolia have not complied with the requirements of the contract despite there being facility within the contract for the Council to raise penalties against Veolia.
• Very little reliance, if any, can be placed on the performance information being provided by Veolia as testing highlighted that work is closed as completed when
in fact it has not started.
• The Council will need a costed plan in place to achieve recycling targets when set by Central Government.
• The street cleansing service standards are not published on the website on a road-by-road basis.
Cllr Jeremy Speakman (pictured), Cabinet Member for Assets and Operations, said: “The household waste collection service is performing very well and it is good to have this confirmed by the findings of the recent audit.
“There are however some important lessons to take from the report as we strive to ensure that the appearance of the district’s public spaces and street scene is maintained to a high standard.
“I’m pleased this audit has highlighted what we need to do and we will work with our partners to ensure that the required improvements are put in place.”
Cllr Speakman fails to address specifically what requires improvement. Nor does he enlighten residents how we got to this point, that Veolia and not fulfilling the contract.
The Audit & Governance Committee on the 13 Sept must bring before it the Cabinet members, Council Officers and Veolia officers responsible for the contract and seek firm answers to why this outsourced contract has failed to deliver on street cleansing for the last two years.
Will they have the courage to do this? We’ll see on the 13 Sept.
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Voxatiousness