Sunday, September 26, 2010

To privatise or not to privatise?

Waterford City Council management are currently looking at all options in relation to its waste collection service including privatisation. While no decision has been made it is clear that privatisation is a real option. The council management are tendering for professional legal and financial services so as to advise on the full implications of ceasing waste collection services. A full asset valuation is being sought so as to value the council’s current customer base.

Ever since waste charges were introduced privatisation was on the cards. Charges led to a private collector entering the market competing with the city council. In 2007 the city council had 16,635 customers while today it has 11,300. The cost of disposing of waste has increased dramatically with the current landfill levy standing at €50 per tonne up from €15 a Tonne in 2008. It is expected to climb as high as €75 a tonne by 2012. A new national waste policy, the introduction of VAT at 13.5% and the prospect of a second private operator entering the market makes it more costly to continue to provide the service.

I have already put my cards on the table. I have told the City Manager I will not support the council privatising the service. Despite leaking householders to a private operator we still have a very loyal customer base. Waterford City Council has provided a high quality service for decades providing good and sustainable employment. We also have 4,400 people in the city who avail of the waiver and these people need to be protected. The best way to do this is for the council to maintain the service.

The council staying in the game will not be easy. Tough decisions will have to be made. Sitting on the sidelines and blaming others will not save the service. I will do my utmost to protect the council service. I would appeal to those who avail of the councils service to make their voices heard. If you want the service to continue – contact your local public representative and contact the city council directly. The council management must exhaust all options before going for the nuclear option. This must involve consulting and engaging with its customers. Privatising the service is not inevitable and must not be seen as such by the city council management.

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