3 April 2012

The Cabinet talks rubbish

On Wednesday at 7pm the Cabinet ( the gang of ten who make all the important decisions )  will discuss the following report.

Waste Collection Options

Mr Mustard is a little concerned as the top officer name on this report is the Assistant Director, Mrs Lynn Bishop. She wrote the following to Mr Mustard about the income share on the May Gurney contract (the one that sees them getting a bonus of almost £1m p.a. just for doing their job )

Thank you for your email dated the 12th December 2011,

As previously advised in an email to you on 13 April 2011 and again in June 2011, Barnet Council and May Gurney share the material income 50/50. Also as previously advised, May Gurney then use their share of the material income to reduce the annual contract price that Barnet Council pays to May Gurney for providing the recycling service. This paragraph was complete rubbish with Mrs Bishop confusing cost and cashflow which Mr Mustard found very worrying. Above a certain figure May Gurney receive half of the money from the sale of recycled materials. So it is correct to say "their share" but completely wrong to say "to reduce the annual contract price" because they don't. What happens is that an estimate of the value of recycled materials is taken off the estimated fees for the year to give a net position which is then paid across 12 months with a settling up at year end.

The income per tonne of £33.11 that was reported to the meeting of the Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 December 2011 relates to the income that Barnet Council receives.

Mr Mustard knew the answer before he asked the question. He wondered if the AD understood and found that she doesn't. A bit worrying when she is in charge of rubbish. Mr Mustard does not let mistakes like that pass him by. He asked Mrs Bishop to explain more clearly and there was a sudden delegation to CS who obviously knows what he is on about despite being much lower in the food chain and here was the real explanation.

Barnet Council's Recycling Services contract with May Gurney allows for the sharing of income from the sale of recyclable materials collected from households, schools and recycling banks. Within the contract, May Gurney retains the initial income from the sale of materials. The annual contract price that the Council pays to May Gurney for providing the services is then reduced by the same amount. 50% of the income received by May Gurney for the sale of materials above this amount is paid to the Council, and May Gurney retains 50%. There are no specific tonnage targets, but the 50% share of income acts as an incentive to May Gurney to collect a greater tonnage of household materials for recycling, and to achieve the best price possible for these materials. No it doesn't; they cannot collect recycling that is not in the bins. It is a gift. Market prices for recycling dictate the prices achieved. Not your fault CS; I know you get told to spout this apology of a reason for a badly drawn contract.

The paths of Mr Mustard and Ms Cross have hardly crossed with the only occasion being when she replied quickly and accurately to an email that Mr Mustard had written to Ms Bishop about the Summers Lane site.

Mr Mustard come write a whole blog about Mr Lai about bin collections. The most recent episode for which Mr Mustard is still awaiting a reply is why the binmen were told to conspicuously photograph Mr Mustard's black bin before and after emptying. No other bin was photographed nor was any other bin in the street put back properly. Mr Mustard also has a camera which he wields frequently.
So Mr Mustard is only 1/3rd confident that the report on rubbish will not be.
So the plan is that each residence will have three 240 litre bins (the standard size of the green bin that we have now ) and a small lidded bin ( or caddy ) for in the kitchen to put food waste into and a larger food waste bin for outdoors. Terraced houses that front the street, like those in Chipping Close opposite the market, obviously can't take part and anyone with small gardens, many Victorian houses have small front gardens, will have their gardens stuffed full of bins. Do they need to be 240ltr size? No of course but in One Barnet, One Size fits all and even if it doesn't, it does! (Think pay by phone parking). 

Let us run through the bins

Green bin for green garden waste, lawn clippings and the like. There is no mention of home composting. Mr Mustard has a compost bin the size of a green bin and a set of 3 bins made out of pallets so that he can leave his waste to rot down. Mr Mustard's are a little more rudimentary than these but they all do the same job. Put that at the bottom of the garden out of the way and share with a neighbour if you get on well.


Some people could manage without a green bin at all if they composted everything green and had a large enough rear garden. Mr Mustard's compost bin came free from the council for a home he had in another borough. It saves the council more than it cost to give him the bin.
Green stuff does not grow below 5° so why not restrict collection to the 6 months from 1 April to 30 September as for the other 6 months there are hardly any green bins to be seen on the street. This would almost halve the costs of collection. Why isn't the council bagging the green waste once composted and selling it at £1 a bag to local garden centres? Let the garden centres sell One Barnet Compost at £2 a bag for 30-40 litres and help the local economy. Proprietary compost is £5 for a 60ltr bag now.

Kitchen waste. Eat it (perhaps this explains Mr Mustard's expanding waistline) or compost it. A good idea to collect kitchen waste as apparently, in many houses, this is one of the biggest sources of waste. Once you see how much food you waste you might try buying differently in order to cut down on waste. Buy 3 looses apples if that it what you need rather than a bag. They are also cheaper loose than pre-packed. Compost used tea bags, apple cores, eggshells and uncooked organic matter. Just put cooked waste food in the kitchen bin. This bin will need to be collected weekly and the lid needs to be secure to stop scavenging pets and foxes.

Co-mingled dry waste. Mr Mustard remembers he was sent a link to a co-mingled waste plant by the Pinkham Way website and here it is.

We are to get another 240ltr wheelie bin for our dry recyclables; basically all the stuff we currently put into the blue and black boxes. This will be much quicker to collect but needs an expensive building full of clever machines and people to do the sorting. If there is a plastic label on the bins with pictures and words of everything that can go in these bins then this may well increase the amount of materials that are recycled.

Black other waste wheelie bin. The existing wheelie bins will remain. One used to be able to get 120ltr black wheelie bins but the council stopped giving them out. That was a retrograde step as old people liked them as they are easier to move around and also old people tend to generate less rubbish being from the made do and mend and/or less rampant users of consumer goods. Residents should be offered the smaller bin if they ask for it or if they are the only person in the household.

There are over 130,000 dwellings in  Barnet. The blue and black boxes will presumably be recycled but the blue boxes didn't appear all that long ago. What did the boxes cost as the purchase price is now going to be thrown away? Here are the values from the asset register for the last 2 years for the small bins:

At 31/3/2010 £1,836,406
at 31/3/2011 £1,322,283

so if we knock off another £500,000 depreciation for the year just ended there will be a residual write-off of £800,000 because the wrong strategy was chosen in 2008. 

it will be something like this outside your property
Mr Mustard thinks that to go the co-mingled route is fine but the collection cycles are over generous. Here is his suggestion

Food waste - weekly
Green waste - weekly but only for the 6 warmest months
Co-mingled - fortnightly
Leftover general waste - fortnightly alternating with co-mingled

Now let us look at the figures in the report. Can you follow them? The layout is a complete illogical mess. Mr Mustard would have liked the figures to have gone through the detail first and then presented a summary. He would have liked the next 5 years to be in a table showing all the costs first, then all the savings then the notional savings from costs that won't be incurred in future years due to the new plan (which aren't really savings at all).

It looks to Mr Mustard like the £206k in the table at the top of page 213 should be £201 as shown at the bottom of page 218. Let us see if that gets corrected.

A quick whizz through the report in order. 

1.1 Good idea. Encourage recycling.

1.2 Bad idea. Too many litres.

4.2 The actual percentages in a table would have been useful.

4.4 More madness, signing up to something for 25 years way after many councillors will no longer be.

6.1 Figures rather than percentages should be a table. 4% is the rate of inflation so no increase at all in real terms.

6.2 It doesn't clearly say what the "impact on performance" percentages are. One could conclude that will be the percentage improvement but more likely it is the % of waste that will be recycled.

6.3 Mr Mustard would like to subscribe to the One Barnet Wave it Goodbye phase. This Wave 2 is mentioned without Wave 1 having had a mention. Did Mr Mustard miss it?

6.8 50% We'll see.

9.1.4 Utter madness to have to estimate your future rubbish for 25 years if any penalties apply to being wrong.

9.5 Mr Mustard suggested this in his blog a little while ago.

9.6.1 One of the worst laid out tables ever seen. If the 3 categories had been used as headings within the table then the first column could have been done away with and the whole table would have fitted on one page. 

A face to face campaign is a good idea but it needs to be more effective than breakeven after 3 years. 

Clear instructions by direct mail to every household will cost £14,000. There are 130,000+ households so say 10p per household to produce literature and mail it out. Looks a bit tight.

Barnet First magazine will be the first item into Mr Mustard's co-mingled bin. It is shoved through the letterbox which clearly says "no junk mail" on it; that means if it doesn't have his name on it, he doesn't want it.

A clear sticker saying what you can recycle, stuck firmly and permanently on the bin is a top idea.

Adopt language of communications. ??????????????

Local monitoring...Haven't bin police been outlawed?

Pledge bank - which should itself have been recycled by now.

£210,000 for 130,000 bags. Mr Mustard will check the bill. This will have to go out to EU tender.

Thank you for reading. Maybe Mr Mustard will see you at the town hall on Wednesday evening at 7pm?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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