Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting GAZETTE NEWS to 80360, or email
A shambolic waste service
6:00am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in News
COLCHESTER taxpayers are paying the price for a shambolic waste service.
An investigation by auditors has revealed a massive level of failure in the organisation.
Their damning report has recorded the service has 13 major problems that “could leave it open to significant error or abuse.”
However, the council has said not a single officer has been disciplined for the major failings.
Concerns raised include trade waste being collected from firms which were not customers, and had not paid a penny, and vehicles not being weighed correctly going in and out of the Shrub End waste depot to correctly record what each was carrying.
Taxpayers foot the bill for all rubbish that is not recycled.
Mr Quince, said: “I am calling for an independent inquiry into these serious failings highlighted by this independent, nonpolitical report.
“The auditors’ report has identified some very serious failings, which give us very serious concerns.
“The councillor responsible needs to get a grip on this matter very urgently and report back to the council on what steps he is taking to rectify this situation.”
The report stated there were 13 major issues for the attention of senior managers, 12 important issues and twominor issues. The service was given the lowest level of assurance rating possible. This designates it as “leaving the system open to significant error or abuse”.
The council service with the next most serious number of concerns was the disabled family grant, which had just two.
Mr Hunt was contacted for an interview, but did not respond.
A request to him through the council’s press office also went unanswered.
Mr Quince said: “Auditors are independent and nonpolitical and they have given a damning report into this service.
“It is not acceptable for Colchester taxpayers.
“If disciplinary action is needed, then it should be taken.
“These are serious failings and the public should be rightly concerned about them.
“The big question is whether the councillor r e s p o n s i b l e knew and, if he did, how much did he know or was he not told?
“If he was not told, we are looking at serious failings at officer level.”
The report relates to the management of the service by Colchester Council, rather than the council’s 130 refuse collectors
Standards “slipped” and processes “became sloppy”
ONE of the council’s top officers has admitted standards “slipped” and processes “became sloppy” in the borough’s waste management service.
But Ann Hedges, Colchester Council’s chief operating officer, revealed no one has been disciplined over the damning report.
She has, though, called for anyone with evidence of malpractice in the service to come forward with evidence.
Mrs Hedges said: “We have been through the audit with a fine-tooth comb and there is nothing there to suggest that we need to investigate further or discipline any individual.
“Nobody has been investigated as a part of it, but I would welcome anyone coming to me with evidence of malpractice under the whistleblowing policy.
“I would urge them – come to me and tell me. Otherwise I have no proof.”
She added: “With the implementation of a four-day waste week, there was a focus on providing the service and we slipped in terms of the management – it became sloppy.”
Mrs Hedges also admitted it was “unusual” to get so many priority one points.
She added: “We knew about most of these points before the audit.
“Most of it is not a surprise to us.”
Mrs Hedges was appointed as one of three executive directors after a council restructure in March, just as the audit was being carried out.
She is responsible for waste and recycling, sport and leisure and ICT.
She added: “One of the very first things to land on my desk was this report.
“We are taking it very seriously and have already acted upon the vast majority of the points, most of which relate to administration.
“The forward-facing service, which the public will see, was not affected – there was no deterioration.”
New policies, such as more regular stock-taking, better weight management and a more robust approach to contracts, are already in place, according to Mrs Hedges.
Shortly before the report was delivered to the council, a service manager left, but Mrs Hedges said the decision was not connected to the report in any way.
An interim waste manager is now in place, before a permanent appointment is made in the new year.
Comments are closed on this article.