Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland, is calling on Dumfries and Galloway Council to rethink rolling out its new refuse collection scheme across the region after a report highlighted spiraling costs from the project across Wigtownshire.
The MSP believes the roll out should be suspended in light of a report published this week.
Mr Hume said: “When the council first talked about the scheme, there were early warning signs that it could cause additional strains on workforce and resourcing at a time when council budgets are already very tight.
“The report published this week underlines those fears were not unfounded because so far the scheme already in place for Wigtownshire has cost an extra £435,000. This could have massive implications for communities and the other services provided by the council if the roll out goes ahead to the rest of the region.
“Councillors and officials need to think very carefully about the impact the roll out of this scheme will have on budgets and resources, and indeed in my view the project should be suspended pending further deliberations.”
In a report to members of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, ahead of their meeting on Tuesday, elected members were told that “the whole exercise has been a significant learning curve.”
An overspend of £435,000 already meant that introducing the recycling containers in the rest of Dumfries and Galloway “would not be sustainable.”
The extra costs were due to the council having to employ 26 additional collecting staff, nine full time and 17 agency at £327,824. Vehicle costs were £37,627 higher than estimated. There are currently six kerbside vehicles and four food waste being deployed when the original plan was to use three dry and two food. The cost of having to provide these dedicated vehicles has spiralled £130,356 over the original budget.
The local authority have offset some of the extra cost through additional income and grant funding but they are still looking at an overspend in the 2015/2016 financial year of £300,000.
The new recycling waste system, introduced on the autumn of 2014, met with a wide range of teething problems. Routes had to be changed causing delays, high participation and unfamiliarity with the scheme meant vehicles bought to service other areas had to be deployed here to speed up collections.
The use of wheeled bins in communal area for food waste has led to significant contamination issues and had to be withdrawn and replaced with larger food caddies and liners.
Sorting the waste at the kerbside has been slower than expected and operational staff have complained though their union about potentially unsafe working practices with the manual handling methods leading to back problems; uncomfortable vehicles, longer working days; the suitabiltiy of the boxes for recycling; suitability and availability of protective equipment and concerns about knives, needles and other dangerous items in recycling receptacles.
The council now want to trial a pilot scheme using bespoke vehicles to cut costs.