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Council cautious over Biffa contract in absence of Defra strategy

South Staffordshire District Council has extended a waste contract with Biffa after “vigorous discussions” spurred on by fears it might get no bids were it to re-tender the work.

The council signed a seven-year contract with Biffa in 2013 with an optional seven-year extension.

It did not want to take this up because the resources and waste strategy and circular economy package might radically change what the council needed from the service.

The two-year extension is intended to tide it over until the policy background becomes clearer.

A report to the council’s cabinet by Mark Jenkinson, assistant director community services, said the Biffa deal had saved taxpayers £2.8m over its lifetime and there were no performance problems.

Jenkinson said though that Biffa had submitted a proposal for a seven-year extension with the same specification, as the council wanted, but had “indicated a substantial annual increase to the existing contract cost”.

A two-year extension would allow South Staffordshire to “digest the outcome of the Defra resources and waste strategy and potentially plan and implement service changes that would be intrinsic to a new contract”

Biffa had agreed to the two-year deal on the same terms as now “following vigorous discussions”, he said.

Jenkinson warned that if the council sought a new contractor now it could get unsatisfactory bids, or none.

He cited a letter sent to councils in June by WRAP, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers which had estimated that 70 local authorities could be issuing tenders for waste contracts over the next three years.

The letter stated: “With such a high number of contracts potentially being re-let and a relatively small number of waste management companies looking to provide services, this will be a very challenging time in which to procure.”

Jenkinson said a material risk to the service and council was that “suitable providers are unable or unwilling to engage in accordance with these timescales”.

MRW reported in April that nearly 50% of council contracts would expire by the end of 2019.

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