Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Rubbish Arguments for Option A

Before I mention this, I will say that I know a number of Option A supporters who think centralising refuse collection would be a very bad idea. But I heard it given as one of the reasons why the Parish system is wrong, and the Constables need to come out of the States.

This was a professional individual who told me his friends and fellow professionals all share the same view. And Nick Le Cornu also complains about twelve rubbish collection services from each Parish as if it is something bad, which Option A will do away with.

The complaint is: why are there different refuse collectors in different Parishes?

As this is in any case largely "invisible" to the end user, I think this is grasping at straws. I'm not convinced that "economies of scale" always work. By shopping around, and with some Parishes with larger needs than others (because of population), it is possible to get a "best fit" with lowest price for one Parish, and "best fit" for one is not best fit for all. So I don't think that's a good argument at all.

Let us look at this in more detail.

The Parish is responsible for refuse collection. As a general rule this is done by entering into contract for at least a 3-5 year period after which it is open to tender. The one exception is St. Helier, where due to its size it operates its own service.

So, first each parish does 'shop around' for best tender. But Parishes may not accept the lowest tender. This is for two reasons. The first is that if the lowest tender came in from a company that had only just started refuse collection services, it might be considered untried and therefore untested; second is what we might call "the knowledge" . As with taxi drivers, it is important that those supplying a service can locate the properties; just setting up in business is not a guarantee of that fact.

Perhaps more important here too is that it is NOT the Constable who deals with the issue of tender. That is in the first instance drawn up by the Parish Secretary and deliberations are thereafter conducted by the Procurers who make the recommendation to go with one service or another - the contract being signed on behalf of the Parish by the Constable. This is another example of general ignorance in how a Parish works.

Another point is equipment. Different parishes have a need for deploying different equipment. For example, St. Clement have a number of high-rise and community collection points needing specialised equipment to remove the rubbish - whereas say St. Ouen has a myriad of small lanes and isolated properties where an altogether smaller vehicle is required. Then there are collection patterns to consider. So it is much more complex that it might appear to be. Each parish tenders to the most appropriate operators for their needs.

One size fits all, as anyone who has had the misfortune to buy some item of clothing that does not fit knows, is rarely true. The same is true of refuse collection. The argument that a centralised States run department would do better is a chimera, and as I say, I know some strong and intelligent supporters of Option A who agree with that, and think that the States running refuse collection would probably be an expensive disaster costing much more to the taxpayer than the present system of different tenders. As Sam Mezec says: "Having a local administration is an effective and cost efficient way of delivering services at the lowest level possible to the people."

So by all means keep the arguments for demographic deficit for option A, but let's drop the argument about refuse collection. It is rubbish.

1 comment:

Tom Gruchy said...

When I was in Guernsey recently researching their own Option A style of reformed government - I met some residents who were politicised by rubbish.
They had gone along to a saturday surgery where Parish reps (Constables and Douzeniers) and large constituency Deputies regularly meet the public in open forum to discuss any matters raised. Their particular conceren was rubbish but they found the whole experience so interesting that they planned to go again to join in with other discussions. They were as they said surprised to find that "politics" could actually be interesting and relevant to them.
So there you have it - there is more to rubbish than we might think no matter who contracts to deal with it..
Mike Dun writes.