Dorset Waste Boss Suspended After £3m Overspend

3 March 2015, 12:42 | Updated: 3 March 2015, 18:59

The director of Dorset's waste collection service has been suspended - while the County Council investigates a nearly £3 million overspend.

Members of seven Dorset councils will meet next Wednesday (11 March) to discuss an urgent improvement plan for the Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP).

The DWP Joint Committee, which oversees the partnership, will consider a report outlining the findings of three separate reviews into the DWP’s budget management, decision-making and use of hire vehicles.  They will be asked to approve an action plan to implement all their recommendations.

Councillors will also receive a report by the Monitoring Officer of Dorset County Council, the partnership’s host authority, highlighting that the DWP hired vehicles to the value of £1.5m without a proper tendering process.  In addition, the monitoring officer report identifies issues in relation to DWP vehicle insurance.

On behalf of the partners, the county council has launched a formal, independently led investigation into the issues raised. 

The reviews were called for late last year after the DWP reported an overspend of £2.8m, including more than £1m for hire vehicles, associated with the roll-out of improved recycling services. They are:

  • an internal audit of vehicle hire by the South West Audit Partnership;
  • an efficiency review by Local Partnerships (jointly owned by the Treasury and Local Government Association);
  • and a fundamental review of the DWP by consultants WYG, commissioned by the chief executives of partner councils. 

The Director of the DWP has been suspended temporarily while the county council carries out its formal procedures in such circumstances. This is done without prejudging the outcome of these procedures.

Temporary leadership will be provided by Mike Harries, the county council’s Director for Environment and Economy and Chair of the DWP Management Board, and Steve Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Purbeck District Council.

WYG, who authored one of the reviews, has been appointed to provide temporary support to the DWP management team, oversee delivery of the improvement plan and restore confidence while ensuring vital services continue to be provided.

The DWP is formed of and funded by seven Dorset councils on a cost-sharing basis and is hosted by the county council, which employs its staff and provides its support services.

The councils formed the partnership in 2011 to join up waste services across Dorset.  It has met or exceeded most of its key aims, including:

  • increasing recycling to more than 60% (currently above 62% in districts using the new service and 59% countywide)
  • reducing landfill waste (this has halved from 40% to 20% since 2011);
  • achieving customer satisfaction of 80% (89% of 5,000 residents surveyed in February 2014 said they were happy with the new service)
  • and saving at least £1.3m a year (this was achieved in the first three years but not this year. Financial projections show that the councils are still better off in the partnership than if they had continued to deliver waste services on their own).

However, late last year saw problems with the roll-out of the service for a number of households in Weymouth and Portland, the reported overspend and an increase in next year’s budget by £2.9m to £32.5m.