DECISION to bring waste services back in-house could be costly for Dumfries and Galloway Council taxpayers if the Scottish government cuts funding next year.
After the council’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract was terminated and it decided to provide the services itself, the government launched a
review of its grant to the local authority.
In 2004 the council entered into a 25-year PFI contract for its waste services.
Last year the private company involved sought to terminate the deal, citing an annual loss of about £3m.
“The contract was subsequently ended in September 2018 and the council agreed to bringing services back in-house.
Now, a South Scotland MSP has accused the SNP government of having plans to slash the funding given to the council to provide waste services.
Colin Smyth’s comments came after an exchange in the parliament between himself and Aileen Campbell, cabinet secretary for communities.
Mr Smyth asked whether the government planned to cut funding to the council as a result of the termination of the waste PFI contract and its decision to bring services in-house.
Currently, the council receives £3.191m a year from the government’s strategic waste fund which was reviewed after the PFI contract ended.
Ms Campbell admitted there was an “ongoing review” but Mr Smyth understands the
review has already concluded and proposed a cut in funding of about 10 per cent in the next three years, with more cuts to follow in the future.
He said: “The government was happy to give the council nearly £3.2m to support the running of waste services when they were part of a PFI
“But as soon as the council decided to bring services back under public control after the private contract collapsed, the government announced it would review funding and cut it by hundreds of thousands by the of end of the next three financial years.
“Punishing a council for ending a PFI contract through no fault of its own makes a mockery of the government’s claims to be against PFIs.
“What is really worrying is that it will be hard-pressed council taxpayers who will have to stump up the extra costs for services unless the council finds significant efficiencies and savings in running the waste and disposal service in-house.”
In response to his question, Ms Campbell said: It’s for each local authority to determine how best to meet its statutory obligations in respect of waste service provision.
“At the moment, we know Dumfries and Galloway cancelled its waste PFI in 2018 and that was a decision made by the council.
“The member is right. It has been in receipt of strategic waste grants for services previously delivered under the PFI and, while the ongoing review of that happens, we have continued to make that payment.”
Last week council officials were in Langholm to consult the public over plans for a new recycling and waste services regime.
This scheme is likely to be rolled out in Eskdale in November 2020 and most households will be given three bins: grey for residual waste; blue for paper and card; and red for cans, plastic bottles, pots, tubs, trays and cartons.
The Scottish government proposes to introduce a deposit return scheme for cans, glass and plastic bottles next year. There are likely to be vending machines where people can take these and the bar code will be scanned.
At Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk community council on Monday John Galloway, chairman, said: “Nothing was said at that consultation which has not been said before.
“It’s how the council takes it forward. For a lot of the streets in Langholm it’s not feasible to have three bins.
“The council should look for points around the town which
allow people within walking distance to get to them to put in their recycling rather than have very small footpaths obstructed by bins sitting there.”
Councillor Ronnie Tait said this was why the council was consulting communities.
Asked about garden waste, he thought something would come from the Scottish government on that.