herald

Thursday 21 September 2017

What a total waste for city councils

CITY officials forked out €250,000 for advice on the messy privatisation of the capital's bin service.

The fiasco over the change in service has led to outrage in Dublin with residents now demanding answers.

But the Herald can today reveal the behind-the-scenes dealings prior to the selling off of the bin collection service – including a €250,000 consultancy fee.

Families were today scrambling to be able to afford the €100 Annual Service Charge slapped on them by Greyhound Recycling – the new operators.

However there was some welcome relief today after Greyhound agreed to split the charge into two €50 installments – payable next month and in July.

Meanwhile, leaked documents show the controversial move to sell off the service was already being decided in the early part of last year – months before it was communicated to councillors. We can reveal that in a letter to Impact trade union in September, Dublin City Council assistant manager Seamus Lyons stated: "Dublin City Council has now decided to cease the provision of the kerbside waste collection service, both household and commercial, with effect from Monday, 5 December 2011."

Mr Lyons admitted in the letter that the council had already planned to seek private companies to purchase the service.

"This [the proposal] will involve the seeking of bids from private waste operators for the council's customer book for the domestic and commercial refuse collection routes and for the bin," he wrote.

Mr Lyons – who is a highly paid civil servant, earning €120k a year – was today accused of "betraying hard-pressed families".

Furious union bosses had a showdown with council management on September 19 and referred the issue to the Labour Relations Commission.

Betrayed

Both Siptu and Impact refused to turn up at further meetings scheduled by the council.

Councillors have today firmly pointed the finger at Seamus Lyons, who has responsibility for the environment.

Independent councillor Cieran Perry said: "I hold assistant city manager Seamus Lyons responsible for this whole mess. He carried out the plan to privatise a vital public service with absolutely no consultation with the elected councillors. He has betrayed hard-pressed families."

And in further revelations today, the Herald has learned that the hard-pressed taxpayer is to foot a €250,000 bill after the council awarded a lucrative consultancy contract to Ernst & Young for advice on the whole privatisation fiasco.

Despite the exceptionally large contract, the council carried out absolutely no public procurement process.

In a response to a query by Cllr Perry, city manager John Tierney said tendering was "not applicable".

Some €168,000 was handed over to Ernst & Young by the end of November, with council officials admitting to Fianna Fail's Mary Fitzpatrick that the figure will rise to "in the region of €250,000".

Ernst & Young is facing a disciplinary hearing over its auditing of Anglo Irish Bank.

Meanwhile, the city council is still refusing to reveal the details of the contract it signed with Greyhound, claiming that it is commercially sensitive.

Pressure was mounting today on Lord Mayor Andrew Montague to agree to a demand made by 10 councillors seeking a special meeting to demand answers.

The company admitted it will proceed like "any commercial firm" when attempting to claw back the €6.7m owed in arrears.

Councillors fear that the company will employ its own debt collectors to chase struggling families for money.

Independent councillor Christy Burke said he has been contacted by an elderly, blind person who was "terrified of being hit by extra charges".

"In all my years as a councillor, I've never seen an issue that has caused so much anger," he said.

Greyhound has yet to offer any assurances after June that the current lift charges of €6 for a black bin and €2 for a brown bin will be maintained at the current levels. And the 40,000 customers availing of waivers may be hit with the annual service charge in 2013 and beyond.

Parts of the city descended into chaos this week as whole streets went "abandoned" with no bin truck calling.

Councillors claimed that streets throughout the city were in a "dangerous state" as bins blocked pavements and roads.

Dublin City Council claimed the confusion was the responsibility of Greyhound, while the company said it was caused by a "City Council hangover".

\[Melanie Fairhurst\]And the fiasco has also caused major upset for the 110 bin men who have yet to be told what area of work they will be deployed.

Senior sources told the Herald that the men - many of which have been collecting bins for decades - are in an "awful state".

"They have been completely left in the lurch about their futures. They are fuming. The whole ordeal has caused great upset. They don't know what part of the city they will be working in next week."

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council told the Herald that "all operational issues in relation to the bin service are now to be put to Greyhound Recycling and Recovery". hnews@herald.ie

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