02:36PM, Friday 02 October 2020
Serco bosses faced a grilling from councillors over the company’s ‘very poor’ bin collection service in Windsor and Maidenhead.
Some residents in the borough have been left with rotting, maggot-filled bins due to a disrupted service since Serco reverted to its weekly collections on August 17.
The company had been operating fortnightly collections due to staff shortages and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Katy Bassett, Serco’s regional director for the south of England, told a meeting last night the company had faced ‘significant’ challenges trying to introduce its new Target Operating Model in August.
This included new routes for its crews and changes to the way waste is collected in the borough.
She told the borough’s communities overview & scrutiny panel: “Having not seen a significant service change in this area for 15 years, Serco has had to do two at fairly short notice.
“The transition from the weekly service to the alternate weekly service (in April) was done in just two weeks. The transition from that alternate weekly service to the weekly service we’re experiencing today was done in just five weeks.
“On a programme of this scale and complexity either of these two pieces of work would normally take us between 3-6 months to plan and 2-3 months before those services stabilised.
“We have not had in the circumstances that we face here the luxury of that. I do appreciate and I am deeply sorry that the service has been so significantly disrupted.”
Serco’s crews have to pick up rubbish from 68,044 properties in the borough but the completion rate fell to just 29 per cent of homes on Monday, September 7.
Ms Bassett told the meeting it was the borough’s decision to fast-track the return to weekly bin collections in August.
The council’s head of commissioning (infrastructure), Ben Smith, said this call was made as the council had ‘no mandate’ to continue with fortnightly rounds.
Cllr Gurpreet Bhangra (Con, Boyn Hill) described the current level of service as ‘completely unacceptable’ and questioned why Serco had switched to a new model when its service before the pandemic had run without any glitches.
Cookham and Bisham were two of the areas worst hit by missed collections, according to Lib Dem ward councillor Mandy Brar.
She said: “I have lived in this borough for 31 years and I have never experienced anything like this.”
Clewer and Dedworth East councillor Helen Price (TbF) and Tory councillor John Bowden (Eton and Castle) both pointed to a lack of local knowledge as a key factor behind poor collections in Windsor.
Cllr Bowden said: “In Windsor we have had a very poor service and we are still receiving a very poor service.
“Blocks don’t get a regular service and I think this is down to the crews not knowing their routes and they are being changed on a weekly basis.”
Serco denied the claim crews were changing on a regular basis.
Councillor Catherine Del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) questioned whether Serco would be able to continue drafting in refuse workers from other parts of the country to support the company’s struggling Royal Borough operation.
The company’s environmental services managing director, Ronnie Coutts, said Serco was able to pool staff to support contracts in the region.
The waste services provider said it is piloting a scheme where waste will be collected on Saturdays to try and improve completion rates with garden waste also being collected separately on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The virtual meeting was also told discussions are ongoing over whether those who paid £65 for green waste recycling will be compensated by the council.
A student from Maidenhead who suspects she was spiked with a needle on a night out after waking up in hospital the next day has urged people to report similar incidents to the police.