Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council and Biffa
Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council covers an area of some 60 square miles, with a population of 320 000 and 145 000 domestic properties. The household refuse collections and street-cleaning services have been carried out by Biffa since 2006.
The relationship being developed between the parties is very much along partnership lines and allows flexible and creative responses to operational issues as they arise, with sufficient checks and controls in the system to ensure priorities are dealt with.
The contractor had been made aware of a number of incidents where its staff had been threatened or attacked by members of the public during the course of their work. This included verbal abuse, being threatened with weapons and the aggressive driving of vehicles at and around crews and their vehicles.
Very often, the flashpoint may have been related to the current policy on collections, including frequency and types of waste to be collected, but this was usually outside the control of the crews. The issue of aggressive driving around refuse collection vehicles were also a problem, but one which is linked to the nature of kerbside collections.
Action was required to reduce the number of incidents and to enable crews to better deal with such situations in the future.
The partnership between the authority and Biffa works in a three-tier system:
- Fortnightly contract meetings are held between operational managers from both the authority and Biffa. These meetings deal with operational matters only, but include health and safety on every agenda. It was at this level that the violence issue was first raised.
- Monthly liaison meetings are held between Biffa's depot manager and the authority's senior waste service managers. They deal with more problematic operational matters and the practical implementation of policy, including health and safety. This would include reviewing accident statistics and ensuring that lessons had been learnt from investigations. The violence issue was notified to this committee as it had serious implications for the partnership.
- Quarterly partnership board meetings are held between the Regional Director for Biffa and the Head of Service for the authority. This level deals with strategic matters but maintains a review function over matters such as health and safety. The violence issue was notified to this board, who were then able to ensure it was dealt with.
The partnership recognised that the violent behaviour being directed at refuse collection crews was a matter to be dealt with by the partnership. The crews were employed by Biffa to carry out the collection service determined by the authority, its officers and elected members.
The partnership developed a 'Conflict Resolution Card', which was given to crews to give to members of the public whenever a situation arose. The development of the card used expertise within the authority and demonstrates an innovative way of dealing with a problem that arose during the life of the contract. The cards explain the service provided and other useful information and have been shown to be effective in reducing violent behaviour. The card has been universally welcomed by the crews and the number of violent incidents reported has reduced.
In an attempt to deal with the aggressive driving the partnership has raised the issue with a locally formed 'Traffic Awareness Forum'.
This deals with traffic-related issues and includes agencies such as the police. The intention is to raise the profile of issues surrounding waste and recyclables collection and encourage the police to take enforcement action against those involved. To this end, all-round CCTV is being trialled on some vehicles, which should improve vehicle safety and provide evidence that can be used against aggressive drivers.