Public barred from five council meetings where secret £250m bid agreed
PUBLISHED: 17:27 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:27 06 December 2019
A waste contract worth £250m has been agreed behind closed doors at three Norfolk councils.
A waste contract worth £250m has been agreed behind closed doors at three Norfolk councils. Breckland Council (BC), North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council (KLWNBC) agreed they would pursue a joint waste services contract in 2017, and signed paperwork obligating them to complete the bid process earlier this year. And at meetings held on Friday, December 6, in Dereham, Cromer and King's Lynn, councillors voted to award the contract, which is worth £250m, to their preferred bidder - but kept the company's identity a secret from the public.
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Councillors in Breckland voted to accept the application from Bidder B, after a cabinet meeting which saw the public excluded. A report from Paul Hewett, executive member for contracts and assets, advised that "the most economically advantageous tender for the contract for waste and related services submitted by Bidder B is accepted". The decision will be subject to a formal contract agreement and is expected to be made public after a period of ten days. And at a meeting of the full council - which was also held in private - it was agreed to spend £5m in capital funding to purchase waste vehicles and equipment. The new contract will replace Breckland's deal with Serco, who currently provide all waste-related services in the area, and begin in the district from April 2021. Councillors decided not to start food waste collection service in the spring but said they would review the decision periodically, but the contract will cover waste collection, recycling collection, grounds management services and street cleaning services.
The report states that the expected benefits of the new contract will include: "A new modern, up-to-date contract, utilising new technology" and a "competitively priced and enhanced recycling service". It also has the potential to generate income for the council - but additional benefits of the service remained confidential in an appendix to the report which was kept out of the public domain. Councillors in West Norfolk and North Norfolk also agreed to accept the recommended bid at special cabinet meetings held in King's Lynn and Cromer. And spokespersons for both councils confirmed that while negotiations with the bidder are continuing, the councils have "decided on the preferred bidder".