Swindon Borough Council has been warned about its lack of due diligence of waste management on council-leased land, after it was left with £1m clean-up costs from the closure of Averies Recycling.
A report to the authority’s audit committee said the council should be “more proactive” in inspecting council-leased land, and criticised its lack of corporate risk and performance reporting on waste activities.
The report said: “There is also no due diligence process in place to provide an assurance that tenants [operating] waste activities on council land are diligently discharging their Environment Agency (EA) waste operator licence responsibilities and liabilities.”
A huge fire broke out at a council-leased site at Marshgate run by Averies Recycling in 2014. Around 10,000 tonnes of waste burned for eight weeks.
A fire also hit a council-leased site at Averies’ sister company Swindon Skips at Brindley Close in 2013. The EA revoked the permits at both sites because steps had not been taken to reduce the amount of waste being stockpiled instead going to landfill.
Averies Recycling was liquidated in January last year, with the EA picking up the tab for site clearance.
Swindon Skips went into administration in November 2014, leaving the council responsible for clearing up around 11,000 tonnes of waste.
The council now estimates its clean-up costs are between £750,000 and £1m, a downward revision from an earlier estimate of £2m.
The EA is pursuing a prosecution against the companies’ directors, brothers Lee and David Averies. The case was adjourned following a not guilty plea submitted by both defendants last year. A trial is due in August 2016.