Wealden District Council has admitted it will have to work hard to repair the reputational damage caused by the failures in the refuse and recycling collections across the district.
The new collection service started on July 22 and is undertaken by Kier as part of a joint waste contract with four other local authorities.
A report to the council’s Cabinet said: “The underperformance of this service has had considerable impact on the council’s reputation within the district.
“The level of customer enquiries and the subsequent media reporting on this has resulted in a negative impact on the council.
“Whilst the council has been open in its dealings with the media and has genuinely apologised for these service failings, considerable further work will be required to address the reputational damage over the coming weeks and months.
“However, all of this is predicated on the refuse and recycling service achieving acceptable levels and this remains the focus in the short term.”
The report also states that the troubled service has had a big impact on staff.
“The significant increase in customer contacts has required considerable diversion of resources from across the organisation into both the customer contact centre and in responding to e-mail and web traffic.
“All staff involved have shown great resolve and dedication in dealing with this situation, as well as some difficult customers, and this has been important in minimising the reputational impact this has had on the council,” the report states.
The council says that overall there is an improving trend to collection rates which is reflected in the number of inquiries from residents.
The report says further improvements are needed and believes Kier is missing on average 200 bins a day across the district.
“Whilst this is an improvement, it is still short of the stated intention of Kier to reach the performance levels achieved in the district prior to the change of service. To put that in context, it was in the region of 100-150 per week,” the report says.
“Discussions with senior Kier representatives are continuing on a weekly basis. Through these discussions, ongoing problems with assisted collections, repeat missed properties and the ‘inexplicable’ misses where the property receives a normal service but is then missed are being highlighted.”
One bright spot is that the volume of recyclable material collected has risen dramatically.
The report says: “Due to the successful way our residents have taken to the new recycling service, early indications are that recycling tonnages have almost doubled when compared to the volumes prior to the 22 July.”
Wealden is applying the penalty provisions within the contract.
The council concludes: “The start of the new collection service since 22 July has seen significant service problems. Whilst there are a large percentage of residents who have received the new service as expected and therefore for whom the enhanced service is proving beneficial, there have been too high a number of residents who have not received the service as expected.
“The number of missed bins is still too high, and the problems with repeat misses and assisted collection still need fully resolving. Further work will continue with Kier to ensure these final improvements are delivered.
“However, it is important to note that many residents are receiving the service we expect them to and the council have had residents contact it to say how much they appreciate the new service and in particular the improvements to the recycling service.”