THE Royal Borough’s waste contractors, Serco, have explained what went wrong after consistently missing waste collections for weeks.

Since switching back to weekly from fortnightly bin pickups with revised routes, the council and Serco have been plagued with problems where some angry residents haven’t had their ‘maggot-infested’ bins being emptied for over a month.

Councillor Mandy Brar (Liberal Democrats: Cookham and Bisham) said her ward was the worst hit and hadn’t experienced anything like this of her 31 years living there.

At an extraordinary communities overview and scrutiny meeting on October 1 (Thursday) Serco representatives revealed that ‘significant’ challenges were faced when introducing a new ‘target operation model’ in August.

This model involved new routes being introduced – which affected 20,000 households at “very short notice” – as they haven’t changed in 15 years to make them more environmentally friendly.

Councillors were told that “a programme of this scale and complexity” would usually take between three to six months to plan and another three months for the service to stabilise as “business as usual” – but this was implemented in just five weeks.

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Panel members heard that despite knowing the ‘high risks’ of reverting back quickly may disrupt the service, the council ultimately decided to bring back the weekly collections.

Problems escalated when the council moved to a new data system for people to report problems or their missed collections with Serco having difficulties searching and exporting information from it.

Katy Bassett, Serco's Regional Director, said during the pandemic, the service experienced a staff shortage of 21 per cent due to shielding whereas the volume of waste was 40 per cent higher.

She also said waste and garden tonnage and tip trips on peak days also increased during the weekly service.

Waste increased to 16.11 tonnes per day per crew from the usual 13.92 tonne, and garden tonnage nearly doubled from the usual 3.77 tonnes.

Over 600 “hot spots” of missed collections have been dealt with, according to Ms Bassett, and an additional 69 are being worked on.

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Going forward Katy Bassett informed members that they will continue to deploy more bin lorries with overlay crews from London and the South East, and two dedicated garden crews.

The routes and the distance from the nearest tip will continue be assessed and the access to communal bins will be also be assessed by a supervisor to ensure they are not missed.

The council has made configurations to the new data system so the missed collections information is easily accessible to Serco.

She added in the short-term, residents who continually experience missed waste collections on a Tuesday and Friday will have theirs collected on a Saturday.

Royal Borough Observer:

The chairman of the meeting, councillor John Bowden (Conservative: Eton and Castle), put most of the issues down to poor local knowledge of missing communal bins as he claimed crews were being swapped “on a daily basis”.

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He said: “We in Windsor have had a very poor service and we are still receiving a very poor service.”

He added: “I think you addressed your target operating model too quickly and not with the right amount of staff and support.”

Katy Bassett, however, said that is factually incorrect as the crew work on the same route and do not change on a daily basis – but only adds agency staff if a member is ill or has time off.

She added communal bin store locations that have been missed are being assessed and inspected by supervisors to add it into the system.

It was heard the majority of crews from the previous contractors Veolia were transferred to Serco when they took over back in October 2019.

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Katy Bassett said: “We are deeply sorry for the disruptions to the service performance that we’ve been experiencing since go live on August 17.

“We are continuing to focus on the daily service and making improvements necessary to stabiles that in the coming days and weeks and also paying attention to the future.”

Speaking in hindsight, Ronnie Coutts, managing director for Serco environmental services, admitted the company “could do better” – but is working to make the service more stable and then will work on its “innovation”.

At the end of the meeting, councillors agreed they will look at the original contract and see if it’s still fit for purpose.