Call for government help to cover East Devon recycling contractor’s extra costs during Covid crisis

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is to ask central government for help meeting the extra costs its recycling contractor has incurred during the coronavirus crisis.

The authority’s cabinet was informed that Suez had been impacted by lockdown and residents having to stay at home, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

A meeting on Wednesday heard that a big increase in the volume of rubbish left for kerbside collections was compounded by the loss of key frontline staff through shielding and self-isolation.

“None of this had been planned or budgeted for and the service was working outside of normal contract arrangements,” councillors were told.

Members agreed to consider an extraordinary additional claim submitted by Suez for costs incurred in responding to the pandemic conditions.

A further report will detail the exact amount the contractor is asking for.

But councillors also resolved to lobby MPs for support from central government to help cover the costs.

EDDC’s strategic lead for finance Simon Davey said that the cabinet would need to know the amount of money involved and that officers are currently seeking legal advice around contracts

Councillor Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: “This is a large amount of money, but they have had to do far beyond their own contract to cover what they have been having to do since March.”

Cllr John Loudoun added: “If there are extra costs identified, then we should ask our MPs to lobby for some or preferably all of the extra costs identified.”

Cllr Philip Skinner said this was a very sensible suggestion and one his Conservative opposition group would support.

He said: “We need to put party politics to one side as this is something never come across before, so we need to make sure the financial position we are in is as sound as can be.”

Cabinet heard that Suez had submitted a claim for reimbursement of additional costs that had arisen through operating in pandemic conditions.

These included itemised details of additional labour, vehicles and fuel during the peak lockdown period.

As the costs had arisen through a response to ‘extraordinary and unforeseeable’ circumstances, they were not budgeted for, the meeting heard.

Councillors were told route changes that had also taken place had also ‘blurred the lines’ between operational costs and Covid costs.

It was added that there was likely to be an additional increase in cardboard with more people online shopping for Christmas.

‘Tipping point’ negotiations are now set to begin with Suez over collection tonnages to establish what are and are not Covid 19 costs.

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