Somerset is a largely rural county in the South West of England, with 529 000 residents living in 226 000 households. The local authorities in Somerset consist of five district or borough councils and Somerset County Council. The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) was established as a single client group and virtual joint waste authority in October 2007 to manage waste and recycling services on behalf of these councils.
This is a unique organisational model for the management of waste services in the UK. It fully integrates the responsibilities of the waste collection and disposal authorities across the tiers of local government and also across the spectrum of waste management activities.
The task of procuring the waste collection and recycling service began in 2004, before the partnership was formally constituted. The group of lead officers responsible for the procurement sought specialist advice on health and safety from the outset to ensure they understood all the issues. The entire procurement process and associated documents and evaluations reflected this understanding of health and safety.
Twelve waste management organisations expressed an interest in tendering for the services and, after a pre-qualification stage, seven of these were invited to submit outline proposals. The bidders were required to address specific health and safety issues as part of their proposals. For example, they had to identify the key health and safety issues in providing a waste collection and recycling service and how they proposed to ensure that the highest possible standards of health and safety practice would be achieved and maintained.
The SWP Lead Officers Group organised workshops to explore perceptions of health and safety issues. The output of this work was cross-referenced with the HSE waste inspection audit process and the checklist of issues identified in the Bomel report to develop an evaluation framework.
The team positively engaged with HSE inspectors to gain a better understanding of key issues and areas in need of improvement and asked them to track the procurement process. This all improved the understanding of health and safety issues relevant to the contract amongst the Lead Officers Group and the evaluation team.
As the evaluation process continued, four organisations were invited to submit proposals under the ‘Negotiated Procedure’. This required the remaining bidders to describe in detail their proposed method of working and effectively their ‘best and final offer’.
The evaluation team examined over 90 qualitative method statements for each bidder and assessed these against the proposed levels of resourcing. The need for the bidders to ‘carry out all operations in a safe and professional manner … in order to comply with current health and safety at work legislation and relevant statutory instruments, codes of practice or government guidelines or manuals’ underpinned, and was fundamental to, the evaluation process.
The evaluation team produced a single moderated score for each bidder and exposed the analysis to the scrutiny of both corporate directors of each constituent authority and their executive boards. This resulted in the unanimous endorsement of ECT Recycling CIC (now May Gurney CIC) as preferred bidder.
The negotiation phase of the procurement with the preferred bidder included the development of contract conditions underpinning the relationship between client and contractor. These include:
One of the underlying principles of the SWP integrated waste collection and recycling contract is the emphasis on two-way communication with its contractor so that any health and safety issues can be quickly resolved. Two years on from the award and commencement of the contract, health and safety is a standing item on the agendas of operational meetings, the Strategic Management Group and the Somerset Waste Board (comprising elected members of each of the constituent authorities).
The SWP has also established a Health and Safety Advisory Group (HSAG) to reinforce its relationships with health and safety professionals within the partner authorities and to further develop its relationship with the HSE and the waste management sector. The HSAG regularly reviews accident and near-miss data, debates issues arising from new guidance or HSE activities and identifies opportunities for continuous improvement.
The SWP has learnt many lessons from the contract procurement process and its engagement with the HSE and it understands that: