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Tory Challenge over Serco

April 22, 2022 5:30 PM
By Peter Dobbs
Originally published by Derbyshire Dales Liberal Democrats

Bin lorry (Peter Dobbs)

The local Conservative party are clearly embarrassed by the Serco debacle, with bins not being emptied reliably. They even suggest in their election material for the Carsington Water Ward by-election that residents should ask other parties what they would do in order to 'improve the service quickly'. This is equivalent to asking someone to sort out your baking when you have mixed all the ingredients and put things in the oven.

Without doubt there was a failure of oversight by the Tory controlling group at the most critical stage of the implementation of a new contract with revised ways of working. This failure could and should have been avoided, even with the pandemic pressures.

Also it would be hoped that with a more open and accountable approach, the controlling Conservative group would not have repeatedly suggested last year that there was no need for an enquiry and just providing Serco with more money was the solution. It took a petition organised by Lib Dems to convince the Council that an enquiry was a better idea and we now have those who repeatedly told us that 'working with Serco' was the only way to improve things, recommending that options for waste collection without Serco be explored.

The latest report tells us that "Serco Ltd have not implemented or maintained many of their contractual obligations. This includes, but is not limited to, the provision of monthly, quarterly and yearly management and performance information, installation of 360 degree camera of vehicles, full implementation and use of the Management Information System and the implementation of recycling collections for trade waste collections".

In this light it seems rather optimistic to read in the Conservative campaign leaflet that "We must continue to work with Serco to improve their service levels." That does not seem to us to create a very strong bargaining position with Serco.

Lib Dems are pleased that as a result of the enquiry we now have other options being considered for waste collection in the Dales. It is vital that the Council can provide a reliable service to its Council Tax payers and that is not currently being provided by Serco. It seems to us to be entirely appropriate that the Council are researching possible alternatives. We welcome this and wish that this process had started sooner. If Serco cannot produce the required improvements a different path must inevitably be followed and the Council must be prepared for that possibility.