'Loyal' households get break of six months on bin charges

Sat, Aug 28, 2010, 01:00

SOME 18,500 households in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown have been offered a free bin-collection service for the next six months.

The offer comes from private contractor Panda, which took over the majority of the council’s bin rounds earlier this month.

The council’s decision to withdraw from the service was taken after disputes with Siptu over management of the service and multi-million euro losses.

Panda confirmed it had made the offer to former council customers alongside a promise that from early next year when the offer runs out, prices would remain at 20 per cent below the council’s latest charge.

Fellow private operator Greenstar which unsuccessfully tendered for the council’s goodwill and customer database is also actively seeking new customers in opposition to Panda.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has consistently said it could not afford to run the bin service.

A report from council auditors in May of this year revealed almost €27 million outstanding from households, many of which had never paid their environmental waste charge since it was introduced in 2000.

The report said almost 9,000 households had run up total arrears of €10 million from 2000 to 2004 and had “virtually paid nothing at all” towards the charges.

A further €10 million-plus was owed by more than 14,000 householders who had since taken their business to private bin operators.

The service was then losing about €3.5 million a year, it said. Numbers served by the council bin rounds fell from about 64,000 in 2006 to just 18,500 this year.

The council also cited the outcome of a High Court case earlier this year, which supported unrestricted competition in the waste market in Dublin as one reason for its decision to privatise the service.

Three other Dublin local authorities, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council, continued to provide waste management services.

A spokeswoman for the council said an agreement with Siptu this month had guaranteed no compulsory redundancies for environmental staff.

The council also agreed to maintain one bin round and to collect waste which was left in bags.

The spokeswoman said Panda had paid “an agreed sum” to the council for its goodwill and database.

Panda director John Dunne said the company had based its tender on ensuring customers “who were loyal to the core to the council” were treated fairly.

“The council was very keen to see that its loyal customers were well taken care of and we were happy to do that,” he said.

Panda operates its own waste recovery plant in Co Meath.