Through its privatised household waste and recycling service, Calderdale Council have been handing over public money to a subsidiary of a global waste and water company that puts profits above the human right to water and other vital utilities.
But Calderdale Council’s contract with Sita runs out shortly and the Council has put a new waste and recycling contract out to tender.
This raises some questions about:
- the conditions that Calderdale Council requires companies to meet, before they can bid for contracts to run our public services
- the specifications for the household waste & recycling service – what it collects, when and where.
Plain Speaker suggests that the process of privatising public services should include the online publication of all procurement documents, so the public can see what our money is being spent on, whether the contract specifications meet the public’s needs and whether companies bidding for the contracts are ethically fit to provide public services.
Sita’s parent company has successfully sued the Argentinian government for protecting people’s human right to water and vital utilities
Sita, the company that currently has Calderdale Council’s waste and recycling contract, is part of the global waste and water company Suez Environment, which is in turn a spin-off of the multinational company GDF-Suez. The two Suez companies have an industrial and commercial cooperation agreement.
Last month Suez won a ruling from the International Investment Dispute Tribunal in New York that ordered Argentina to pay Suez $405m, on the grounds that human rights to water and vital utilities cannot override investor rights to profit.
Suez took the Argentina government to an International Investment Dispute Tribunal, because some years ago the Argentinian government fixed the price of water, gas and electricity, and later nationalised vital utilities, in order to protect people’s human right to access to water and vital utilities. This was to stave off price hikes by GDF-Suez and other companies, that would have made water and other vital utilities unaffordable for many people.
Calderdale Council isn’t the only public body in Calderdale that’s contracted out public services to the a subsidiary of the Suez company – Cofely-Suez GDF has bought out the PFI facilities management contract with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.
What conditions should Calderdale Council require companies to meet, if they want to bid for public service contracts?
Calderdale Council sends out a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) to companies that want to bid for contracts to deliver its services. The PQQ has an Equalities section that asks if the company:
“encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act”.
Given that companies like Sita have a global reach, surely the PQQ should ask if companies that want to run our public services comply not just with the Human Rights Act, but with the International Bill of Human Rights?
And Calderdale Council’s PQQ asks companies nothing about complying with Employment Law, recognising Trades Unions, or complying the Council’s Living Wage policy. Surely these should be essential pre-conditions for any companies that want to provide our public services?
What is in the household waste and recycling contract?
Calderdale Council will award the new household waste and recycling contract for 8 years, with the option of up to four extensions of 2 years each. The estimated value of the contract is between £110,000,000 and £130,000,000.
Plain Speaker understands that Sita- Suez Environment is bidding for this new contract. It seems that Sita may have an advantage over other bidders because it owns the incinerator in Kirklees. Without Calderdale’s waste, the incinerator is under-utilised. But this may act as a disincentive to reduce Calderdale’s waste, if Sita were to win the contract, since it would need the waste to keep the Kirklees incinerator fully utilised.
Information about the new contract on the government online.net website doesn’t include the final specification and contract documents; but it does outline the main services that the Council wants the contractor to provide:
- Fortnightly collection of “residual waste” from households
- Weekly separate collection of recyclate including at least: glass, plastic, paper,cans, textiles, food waste, cardboard and tetrapak
- Operation, management and maintenance of a Transfer Loading Station along with the transport of residual waste to disposal/treatment facilities
- Operation, management and maintenance of 5 household waste recycling sites
- Operation, management and maintenance of a Recycling Bulking Station/Materials Recycling Facility
- Collection of waste and recycling from non-domestic properties such as schools, council offices, charity shops, places of worship and community centres
- Ancillary services including bulky waste collectoins, container/receptable provision and
- delivery, clinical waste collections, day-works, Water Electrical and Electronic Equipment and white goods/fridge collections
- The contract also includes the introduction of an opt in collection of green garden waste from domestic properties and also trade waste collection services.
An email from Mark Thompson, Head of Housing, Environment, and Renewal at Calderdale Council, says that the specification for the new contract includes the different types of recyclate currently collected at the doorstep : plastic bottles, food waste, cans, glass, paper and textiles and also includes, as a new requirement : all plastics, cardboard and tetrapak. The collection of green waste from households will require households to pay an annual charge for the service.
Mr Thompson’s email says,
“Bidders could widen the materials collected even further as we are open to innovation.”
Calderdale residents have commented that they would like batteries and other small Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) items to be included in the recyclable materials that the Council collects from households.
Some other councils seem to recycle loads more than CMBC, such as Tandridge District Council which recycles batteries and small electrical items. So there’s no reason why Calderdale Council can’t do this.