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Contractor set to dump city’s waste

CMB organiser Frank Mackiln
CMB organiser Frank

A council contractor looks set to pull out of running household waste collection services after the revelation it will concentrate its efforts on more lucrative contracts. Serco took on two major contracts with Canterbury City Council in April 2013, which include collecting household waste, street cleaning and maintaining public parks and gardens. But Serco chief executive Rupert Soames has announced plans to focus on government contracts for defence, transport, “citizen services”, health, justice and hnmigration. It sparked claims the environment and leisure sections of the business could be sold off to a new company, with services and staff to be transferred with it. Serco spokesman Emma Rudd said:

“Our environmental business is a good business with a strong future. But it does not fit with the company’s strategy going forwards. We feel it will be better placed to serve customers and develop under new ownership.”

She added that Serco is still in talks with 11 councils across the country and will continue to provide its contracted services. Cllr Rosemary Doyle (Con), who has responsibilty for the environment portfolio in Canterbury, said:

Concervative city councillor Rosemary Doyle
Concervative city councillor Rosemary Doyle

“The council has only recently become aware of this situation. These contracts are all very important for us. Any changes to the contract will need the final agreement of the council. Whatever happens, our priority will be to ensure that the high-quality service that is currently provided under these contracts is maintained.”

Serco bosses are believed to have held meetings with their workforce to explain their plans, but no job losses are expected. The GMB union represents Serco workers. Organiser Frank Mackiln said:

Colleen Ashwin-Kean of Herne Bay in bloom
Colleen Ashwin-Kean of Herne Bay in bloom

“These public services are no longer the golden egg that they used to be for the companies. This contract is stifi fairly new and there are penalties for ending it. I would expect Serco to work with the council to come to an agreement or for them to see the contract through.”

It is believed that a new company could be formed by the current management and could buy out the contracts. Herne Bay in Bloom spokesman Colleen Ashwin-Kean was previously a project manager with the company and has worked along-side it to maintain Herne Bay’s Memorial Park. She said:

“I personally don’t think any sale would be a problem because they maintain the parks to the standard set by the city council. Any new company would have to meet the same requirements.”

Similarly Colin Matthews, who has led complaints against Serco’s management of sports pitches, says a new buyer is unlikely to make too much difference. He said:

Serco is to move away from waste contracts
Serco is to move away from waste contracts

“Sometimes new companies like to come in and cut staff to save costs. There will be a buy-out, some sort of name change, but then the services will just carry on under the new banner.

Herne Bay Gazette, December 4th 2014

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