Leeds binmen strike leaves council £50,000 richer

Leeds City Council emerged £50,000 better off from the city's 11-week bin strike, according to the latest figures.

The council has calculated it forked out 2.69m on hiring private refuse contractors, letters to householders, increased security and extending the opening hours of household waste sort sites.

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But it says it made saving of 2.74m, although at this stage the figures do not include any extra landfill charges the council may have to pay because of the strike.

Councillors have been told it will be some weeks before the extent of any extra landfill costs are known.

A breakdown of the savings shows 1.6m not paid in wages to striking staff and 214,000 was clawed back by not having to pay overtime to cover for staff off sick.

Suspending garden waste collections saved 220,000 and postponing the launch of a segregated food waste project saved a total of 118,000.

Delaying the recruitment of temporary workers until the latter part of the strike saved an additional 278,000 and not having to fuel or maintain the council's fleet of refuse vehicles until temporary workers were in place spared 307,000.

At a meeting of the council's corporate scrutiny board, where the savings and costs were discussed, Coun James Lewis (Lab, Kippax and Methley) questioned the effectiveness of the spending on agency workers.

Claimed

He claimed that less than half the city had received the fortnightly bin collections which the council had aimed to provide during the strike.

Coun Richard Brett, the council's deputy leader, disagreed that less than half the city had received fortnightly collections.

He said: "By the end of the dispute I think we did better, although I acknowledge there were pockets of difficulty.

"The arrangements were made at very little notice but they did a good job in keeping the city going."

In a statement released after the scrutiny board meeting, Coun James Monaghan, executive board member with responsibility for refuse collection and street cleaning, said: "This strike – which we always said was unnecessary – not only caused widespread disruption to the people of Leeds – it cost money too.

"Clearly, we had no choice but to make alternative arrangements – we have a statutory duty to empty the bins and that's what we tried really hard to do.

"Our first priority has to be minimising health risks to residents.

"We're publishing these figures because I feel it's important that we are open and honest about what we've had to spend so far."

Billy Pearce.

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