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NRAs 2015 Efficiency Initiative: Warwickshire County Council

Warwickshire County Council is already acknowledged as a pioneer in the development of charity reuse shops at its household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), which generate significant funds for good causes and divert around 500 tonnes of material from landfill each year.

The council is now claiming another first: effectively ‘auctioning’ the operation of these lucrative franchises in a competitive process, which was won by Age UK Warwickshire (AUKW). With some high-performing reuse shops turning over more than £250,000 a year, peppercorn rents were increasingly being seen as unsustainable in the current climate of austerity. So Warwickshire set a minimum concession fee of £50,000 a year per site for this type of operation. The whole-site operation of two HWRCs is also included in the contract.

To stimulate and inform the market, it held a pre-tender information day. This attracted representatives from 15 organisations, from local furniture reuse schemes to national charities and waste management companies. Many questions tabled at this event were distilled into a publication which formed part of the tender pack.

“This is a bold, first mover initiative, commercialising and professionalising the reuse sector. It shows a real desire to share and spread the practice and is already attracting a high level of interest from other authorities.”

Judges’ comment

In total 26 expressions of interest were received for the contract, whittled down to five compliant bids for four lots. As part of the evaluation process, a confidence rating was applied to bidders’ business plans to establish whether or not they were realistic and achievable – generating a reliable income stream for both charitable causes and the local authority.

The AUKW contract is generating £300,000 a year for the council. The council and AUKW share a common agenda, clearly spelt out in Warwickshire’s One Organisational Plan 2014, to “develop and sustain a society that looks after its most vulnerable members, that delivers quality services at the right time, and seeks opportunities for economic growth and innovation”.

Warwickshire County Council's EFFICIENCY INITIATIVE

The symbiotic relationship between a social enterprise and public recycling facilities demonstrates the circular economy in action, underpinning the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic benefit. Scaling up the Warwickshire reuse shops franchise model to the UK’s remaining 1,056 recycling centres would generate an additional £35m a year for councils.

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