Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
An inquiry into Leeds City Council’s waste management is set to start next month, following a summer of missed collections and financial strains on the service.
It follows a report last month which confirmed the council’s waste management department was expected to overspend by nearly £5m this year, despite its struggles to continue picking up everybody’s bins during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillors will meet next week to discuss the plans for joint inquiry, which is to be carried out by two separate committees – one focussing on operational issues, and the other on finances.
A report by council officers stated that the council’s environment scrutiny committee will look at issues around the volumes of waste and what the city does with it, as well as the effects on the environment and how its current performance can be improved.
The council’s strategy and resources scrutiny board will focus on the cost and viability of alternative waste services and issues around recycling.
The report added:
“A major factor in availability of kerbside collection is the resale value of the recycled material.
“Understanding any limitations linked to the resale value of recycled material and any wider limitations in terms of appropriate facilities or availability of a structure to take the recycled waste in Leeds and any associated costs of delivering them.
“It will also be important to understand the current contract status in terms of where recycled waste goes once collected in Leeds and whether there is room for this to include more materials and at what potential cost.
“The primary aim of this Inquiry is to assist, from a budgetary and strategic viewpoint, in enhancing the recycling services offered to Leeds residents particularly at a time when there is major policy focus on this agenda through the declaration of a Climate Emergency in Leeds in March 2019.”
At an executive board meeting last month, city chiefs heard claims from opposition councillors that a “good percentage” of the population of Leeds was now facing missed collections.
The council’s executive member for environment Coun Mohammed Rafique (Lab) told the meeting that one of the issues was the increasing amount of packaging being generated by households during the pandemic, due to the increase in home deliveries. Head of finance Victoria Bradshaw said the increase in costs was due to “additional waste and additional crews”.
Leeds City Council’s Strategy and Resources scrutiny board is set to discuss the terms of reference for the inquiry on Monday, October 18. Although no deadline has been set, the inquiry is set to take place “throughout the municipal year”.