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Waste contract review FAQs

Derbyshire Dales District Council voted by an overwhelming majority (27-2 with 4 abstentions) at a special council meeting on 18 December 2019 for Serco to continue to deliver the waste and recycling contract for the district from August 2020. The special meeting, which can be viewed on the District Council’s YouTube channel (below), also agreed to approve a new charge for collecting garden waste, to be introduced in April 2021.

The District Council carried out a detailed review of its waste collection service, which, since 2012, has been delivered by Serco on the council's behalf. This contract ends in 2020 and the council will be tendering for a new contract to start in August 2020. The following FAQs are designed to help residents understand some of the background to the review.


Who did you consult?

All residents of Derbyshire Dale were invited to respond to two consultations. A final decision on the future waste service was taken by councillors on 18 December 2019, for which we gathered information and residents’ opinions, which are very important to us. We encouraged everyone to complete the survey that closed on 23 September 2018 with 2,629 responses.

How did you publicise this consultation?

We promoted the survey via press releases that were covered in the local press, and everyone on our email newsletter list was personally notified. You can sign up to our email newsletter here. We also publicised the survey extensively on social media, where our tweets and posts were seen by well over 50,000 people. The survey was also sent to every parish clerk and parish meeting chair in the Derbyshire Dales for local promotion.

How long has the current contract been running?

Since 2012 the waste collection service has been delivered by Serco on behalf of the district council. However, this contract ends in 2020 and the council began in 2018 the process of tendering for a new contract to start in August 2020. This process involved the district council investigating a range of potential service options.

Why was there no option in the survey to leave things as they are?

Even though we did not rule out keeping things the same, we did not want to set false expectations in the survey. The status quo was not affordable, so it was essential to review other possible alternatives. So we consulted the public to help us understand what aspects of the waste and recycling collection scheme are most important to our residents and which possible alternatives they would be willing to consider. Without this information, we would have been relying soley on market information and affordability to design a specification.

How much does the contract cost currently?

The current waste collection contract costs Derbyshire Dales District Council approximately £2.1 million per year but we knew this could rise significantly.

Why do you think the cost of the contract is likely to rise in 2020?

We engaged the market and the biggest issues we faced in negotiating a new contract were increased service delivery costs, changes in the value of recyclable material and the level of liability bidders would accept. It was always highly unlikely we would find a contractor who was willing to take on the same level of liability, especially in terms of recycling costs.

Isn't the District Council legally obliged to collect waste, recycling and garden waste?

We have to organise collections of waste and recycling, but not garden waste. Almost half of all UK councils now charge residents for garden waste collections, including 39 of the 50 councils most similar to the Derbyshire Dales.

So how did you meet residents' expectations?

We had to strike a balance of meeting our residents’ needs against the provision of an affordable service. We achieved this by considering options that maintain our levels of recycling, encourage greater recycling, or reclaim some costs to help us afford the current collection frequency.

Why don't you cut the number of office workers and bring the service back in house?

The District Council has reduced in scale substantially. It no longer has the capacity to run complex waste and recycling services in-house, without expanding significantly the very back-office support services that have been cut back progressively over the last 10 years to make savings. It would be possible to upscale in the Council to support an in-house waste and recycling service, but expensive to buy in the necessary staff.

When was a decision made?

The Council meeting on 18 December 2019 was the date that Members decided on a new waste contract following months of work to find the preferred service option, drafting the tender specification for the new waste and recycling contract and negotiating with bidders.

Do any councils collect grey bins/black sacks waste less frequently?

Three quarters of English councils pick up residual waste (which cannot be recycled or composted) once a fortnight, but an increasing number are collecting less frequently. Wigan Council made the shift to collections of residual rubbish once every three weeks a year ago, joining Salford, Rochdale, Oldham and Bury in Greater Manchester which already had three-weekly pick-ups. East Devon Council has three-weekly collections and their service provider says there has been a 10% increase in recycling rates as a result. A further dozen councils in Scotland and Wales collect residual waste every three or four weeks. Other councils are actively considering less frequent residual waste collections in a bid to reduce costs and increase recycling.

Surely fly tipping will increase if grey bin/black sack collections are less frequent?

The evidence so far is that fly tipping is affected by other factors such as deprivation. In recent years, the rise in fly tipping has been greatest in poorer London boroughs (which incidentally do not yet operate three weekly residual collections).

Will there be a cost for providing thousands of new bins if you have a different service?

The cost of rolling out new bins, if required, would be factored into the cost of a new service. However for some of the service options we are looking at, existing bins might be able to be re-used.

Can the council make money from recycling?

It is possible, but it is a volatile market. Prices can go from a high value to a negative value. Plastics used to sell for £20 per tonne; more recently they have sold for minus £5 per tonne. Therefore, we can’t rely on this to offset the costs of the contract. At the moment, there is increasing pressure to recycle more but the cost is rising.

I thought you could offset collection costs by selling recycling onto someone else?

In the past, yes. Today, no. Recycling materials are no longer worth money. Not only is there a cost to collect them, you also have to pay people to take recycling away – overall, recycling can only be sold for a negative amount. Our current contract with Serco is at a fixed price. That means that when it started, Serco did gain money from selling recycling, but now they will be losing money on recycling. Today, the situation is that no contractor will agree a fixed price contract, because they can’t afford to be hit by a falling market.

On average, how much does a household in the Derbyshire Dales pay in Council Tax contributions for waste collections?

Your waste collection costs, on average, £46.85 per band D property a year - that's just under 90p a week. (This is £1,354,558 net budget for 2019/20 divided by Council tax base 28,914.13 = £46.85 per household divided by 52 weeks = 90p per week).

How much does the average Derbyshire Dales household pay for District Council services?

Although we as a district council collect Council Tax on behalf of all local authorities and agencies, we only spend 11% of the total, the equivalent of just 57p a day to spend on services we provide for you, £4.02 a week. Derbyshire County Council's share of your Council Tax is 70%.

Didn't you increase Council Tax in May this year?

Yes. We managed to freeze Council Tax for six years to 2015/16, but due to reduced funding as part of the government’s austerity measures, we have increased our council tax since then. For 2019/20 in 2018/19 we increased our share element of the Council Tax by 2.45% - that's only 10p more per week for our services for the average Dales household (£5.00 extra per year for a band D property).

What proportion of the Council Tax I pay to the District Council funds household waste & recycling collections?

Around 22%

What other District Council services am I paying for?

In addition to waste & recycling collections, your Council Tax helps pay for four leisure centres (these continue to be subsidised by the District Council despite savings made through the recent outsourcing of their management to a not-for-profit leisure trust), plus:

  • Health and crime prevention initiatives
  • Maintaining more than 30 parks & gardens
  • Street cleansing and litter
  • Helping local business and supporting the local economy
  • Agricultural Business Centre & markets
  • Enabling affordable homes for local people
  • Organising elections
  • Planning
  • Licensing
  • Food hygiene, noise & pollution inspections
  • Public loos, pest & dog control

So Council Tax funds all of these services, including waste and recycling collections?

No, actually only 34% of the District Council's total £18m budget income (excluding benefit payments) comes from local residents' Council Tax. Income from fees and charges generates 41% of the budget, with the remainder coming from Council Tax, Business Rates (17%) and Government Grants (8%).

Why do you have to keep making savings?

Successive central government grant cuts mean we need more money to continue to provide the frontline services you expect. The level of government grant we receive will have reduced from £3.5m in 2013/14 to £0.4m by 2020/21, which means, even after making substantial savings in recent times, we have to find additional ongoing annual savings or additional income of £400,000 by 2020/21.

So that's why you increase Council Tax?

Raising Council Tax isn't the only way we are tackling the funding shortfall. We continue to review every single one of our services on a rolling basis to make them as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Not only are these reviews making our services more efficient, in some cases it has meant opting to deliver them differently, sometimes with partners or as shared services. The recent outsourcing of the management of our four leisure centres is an example of this.

How is the Derbyshire Dales waste and recycling service currently rated?

Our service is the best in Derbyshire, but what were seen as optional extras in the past are likely to be the bare minimum in future. For example, weekly collections of food waste may well be compulsory by 2023.

What is the recycling rate in the Derbyshire Dales?

Currently, people in the Derbyshire Dales recycle or compost 60% of their waste – the best performance in Derbyshire. However, the UK is likely to have a legislative target to meet 65% recycling in the future. One way to reduce residual (grey bin/sack) waste further is to collect it less frequently. The District Council currently collects residual waste every fortnight. More councils are now collecting it every three or four weeks. This is known to increase recycling, and costs less than a fortnightly collection.

Is it more difficult for contractors to collect waste in a rural area such as the Derbyshire Dales?

Yes. Urban areas with large housing estates invariably attract keener interest from waste & recycling contractors than sprawling rural areas such as the Derbyshire Dales, which features more than 100 villages and hamlets, and many rural roads that are difficult for large collection trucks to access.

If you joined up with other councils to create a larger area, would that make a better contract?

We have worked with other districts and borough councils in Derbyshire to explore the possibility of a combined contract. However, different contracts expire at different times to ours. Other districts and boroughs made it clear they wanted to keep their present arrangements, so joining up was not possible at present. However, we do share information with other districts and boroughs, and we have worked together to model future scenarios for waste and recycling.

Most of my Council Tax money goes to Derbyshire County Council. What is their role in waste and recycling?

The District Council is responsible for waste collection, and Derbyshire County Council is responsible for processing grey bin waste. We work with the County Council to make sure what we collect is disposed of correctly.

I recycle as much as I can but I know people who don’t bother. What can you do to make other people recycle more?

Collecting grey bins/black sacks less frequently would encourage more recycling. We do not believe ‘shaming’ people who put recycling into their grey bins/black sacks would be positive. But we can provide more information and education about recycling, and this is something we might be able consider in our future contract if resources permit.

What happens to food waste that I recycle?

The food waste you recycle is processed into compost by a recycling company based in Ashbourne, here in the Derbyshire Dales. A short video on this can be viewed here > 

Do you publish a full list of all waste items, stating which can be recycled?

Yes, this can be found on our website here

Is it true that very few items can't be recycled?

Yes. Plastic bags and disposable nappies are two popular items that can't be recycled, but our A-Z of waste reveals there are very few things that can’t be recycled. We can also change our habits to further reduce waste that is destined for landfill – such as:

  • buying goods with minimum packaging such as loose vegetables, fruit and meat products rather than buying pre-packed.
  • buying local food from local shops! Your local butchers, stalls and shops tend to use less packaging on their products. This way you are also reducing pollution by reducing the miles that food has travelled to get to you
  • taking a re-usable cloth bag when you go shopping or using the supermarket ‘bag for life’ schemes or reuse your carrier bags so you don't need to get new ones. SNUB (Say no to unwanted bags)
  • avoiding using cling film and aluminium foil for storing food. Instead put it in reusable boxes with lids, or a bowl with a plate over or reuse ice cream margarine tubs and other containers.
  • avoiding single use disposable products such as plastic cups and plates, cameras and nappies. If you have a child in nappies you could reduce the amount of waste produced by considering the use of real nappies. These are cotton nappies that can be washed and re-used. 

Larger items of household waste can be disposed of at your nearest household waste recycling centre, through our bulky waste service, charity shops or through online websites such as Freecycle.
Household batteries can be recycled via the kerbside collections - just place them in a sandwich bag and tie it to the bin. Electrical items should be disposed of at your nearest household waste recycling centre. Hazardous waste and liquids including paint and oil, rubble, stone or soil and heavy metal items should not be put in your bin.

What happens to the residual waste I throw away in grey bins/black sacks?

All residual waste from grey bins and black sacks is taken to landfill (a refuse tip). We want to keep to an absolute minimum the amount of waste that ends up being tipped at landfill. Disposing of waste at landfill is very costly and causes significant environmental damage.

Waste contract review FAQs


Town Hall, Bank Road
Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3NN
01629 761 122
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