A motion to review Newry, Mourne and Down’s bin collection service has been labelled “toxic” during a heated chamber debate.
Sinn Fein accused the DUP of attempting to bring about privatisation of the ratepayers’ service by calling for a “benchmarking” in costs against the private sector.
Rowallane DUP councillor, Jonathan Jackson bought forward the motion at the recent environment committee.
It read: “This council commits to undertake a full cost benefit analysis of the waste collection service for the entire district, including benchmarking total cost of service delivery against private sector providers.
“This review should include analysis of the volume of missed bins and broken bins reported both across the entire district and by DEA.
“This council is committed to delivering basic council services efficiently and cost effectively. Every ratepayer should be delivered a quality service.”
He added: “As elected reps we have had complaints every day about the bin service.
“I think it makes good business sense to restock and re-evaluate and take stock of things and see where improvements can be made especially in this key council service and I think our constituents would expect that.”
The Local Democracy Service has learned through a recent Freedom of Information request that almost 650 bins were “lost to lorry” from April 2021 to March 2022, with the council repairing or replacing bins “damaged by staff” in the collection process.
A request for cost implications to the council was not answered.
Downpatrick Sinn Fein rep, Willie Clarke said: “We are totally opposed to the motion in its current form.
“Sinn Fein is opposed to privatisation of council services.
“We support and show solidarity with the public sector workers who are out in all weather doing one of the most important jobs that we have for ratepayers.
“These guys work really hard and earn some of the lowest wages out there.
“We are all aware fo the current discussions with the unions and building up that relationship and I think this motion in its current form is toxic to that relationship moving forward.
“The lost bins were lost as the vehicles we had were not fit for purpose.
“We have now gone through a major vehicle procurement exercise, which was a long process as all 11 councils were looking new vehicles.
“It will now improve services.”
Cllr Clarke’s amendment read: “This council commits to setting up a cleansing, refuse taskforce led by the chairperson of council to work with all department heads of service, to ascertain what the problems are and develop a framework to resolve them.”
The amendment was approved in chambers with Cllr Jackson clarifying he was “not advocating privatisation of the service”.