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Better waste management buying could save up to £70m per year

Joining forces to buy bin lorries and wheelie bins could save councils across England up to £70m per year, it has been estimated. 

A DCLG commissioned report, carried out by Local Partnerships, a joint agency of the Local Government Association and the Treasury, has revealed that savings of up to 10% on vehicles and 35% on wheeled bins could be achieved through “clearer specification” and “procuring in larger volumes in partnership with other councils”. 

Currently, there is no specific mechanism being used to manage the waste management goods procurement pipeline across the whole of England. 

It was recommended that local authorities need to procure in higher volumes, with the most obvious way to do this is to join up with other local authorities looking to purchase similar goods at the start of the procurement process. 

Councils should publish a ‘pipeline’ for waste management, highlighting which local authorities are due to make large-scale procurements and when. 

The report said: “This pipeline would facilitate more joining up of procurement, meaning higher volume orders at a lower price resulting in lower unit costs for local authorities. It could be hosted on the pipeline section of Contracts Finder, now the government's main advertising platform for both central and local government contract.” 

It was also noted that procuring 50,000 240-litre wheelie bins, as opposed to smaller orders of 1,000, should realise savings in the range of 35-45%. 

Also, it was estimated that in England due to the ‘local preferences’ on wheelie bins, such as bin colour and embossed logos, councils are spending £5 more on each unit than in Germany where each bin is the same. 

Local government secretary Eric Pickles said: “For too long rubbish town hall procurement policies have wasted taxpayer’s money as councils have worked in isolation when they should have been working together to deliver a better deal for local taxpayers. 

“People want and deserve a comprehensive bin collection service in return for their council tax, which is why this government is working with town halls to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish and recycling collections. 

“Instead of cutting frontline services or introducing stealth taxes such as charges for the collection of garden rubbish, councils should be making the sensible savings such as more joint working, better procurement and new technology.” 

Precise expenditure on “transport” within local authorities’ waste collection costs is difficult to establish, the report noted. But it has been suggested that the local government sector needs to develop a set of benchmarks for waste goods and waste vehicles. 

This would create an environment where high-volume procurement is the norm. There is also a need to standardise products, reduce variations and approach the market place in a consistent manner. 

Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM), told PSE: “A recent report by CIWM and Ricardo-AEA found that many local authorities are already being very proactive in deploying a range of efficiency saving measures, one of which is joint procurement of infrastructure and services. In considering the range of future efficiency options available, this report from DCLG is useful in reinforcing the potential benefits of joint approaches to the procurement of containers and vehicles, and raises an important discussion point about the role of greater standardisation in the future. 

“However, it is also important to acknowledge the effect of ongoing local government funding cuts on councils’ ability to continue to innovate. Continued reductions in budgets and staff resources could impact on councils’ ability to plan and deliver joint procurement exercises. Support from central government and relevant delivery bodies such as WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland will be essential to deliver the pipeline planning, common specifications, and joint working frameworks that will be needed.”

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