Every few weeks there seems to be a new story in the media about a Local Authority considering or planning changes to their waste services model – either to insource or to outsource.
The latest Local Authority to consider this difficult question was Barnet as discussed by Letsrecycle. Ultimately, Barnet decided to keep their street scene services in-house with an improved model aimed at delivering service improvements, costs savings and increased recycling levels.
It seems that the general trend over the last few years has been to bring services back in-house and recently demonstrated by East Cambridgeshire District Council who have decided to provide future waste services through their trading arm once their current contract comes to an end next year.
Last year, Falkirk, brought their recycling services in-house due to rising costs. Prior to this, Hounslow, also made the decision to bring their services in-house, following in the footsteps of Middlesbrough, Bristol, Liverpool, and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
These moves to insource are not confined to one or two particular private waste management companies losing contracts but seem to be across the board involving all the names that we are familiar with.
Back in 2009, APSE created a guide to help Local Authorities bring their services back in-house. This guide looked at all services from administration through to front-line services such as waste and street cleansing and highlighted several case studies from Local Authorities that have brought service back in-house.
Several years on these examples of insourcing seem to reflect the same cost and efficiency drivers although there is, perhaps, more pressure to increase recycling levels and reduce the high costs for those Local Authorities still using landfill.
From these examples in the news, the main drivers behind service changes are:
While there does seem to be good evidence that Local Authorities have created improvements to their services by changing the model there are clearly lots of additional programmes that need to be addressed as part of the bigger picture. Insourcing can come with other significant costs and liabilities. Taking on truck fleets and resources can be a large capital outlay and it can take time to re-develop the service knowledge that may have been lost over the years.
Delivering more cost-effective services can be about better financial management, investing in more efficient vehicles or pushing through service changes but it can also be about innovating within the service and working smarter, whether that is an insourced or an outsourced waste service model.
Significant benefits can be achieved by visiting and collecting waste containers at the optimal time instead of servicing bins that are practically empty or when they are overflowing. By collecting efficiently, Local Authorities can free up resources to be better utilized on other street scene tasks and ultimately “do more with less”.