THE Somerset West and Taunton district will have to find an extra £447,000 for waste disposal next year as the Somerset Waste Partnership predicts a budget deficit of around £1.2million due to rising costs.

The state of the SWP’s finances was revealed at a meeting of its joint scrutiny panel last Wednesday (December 8) during a review of the partnership’s contracts with Suez, responsible for kerbside collections, and Biffa, which runs the county’s 16 household waste recycling centres.

The meeting heard that the cost of collections has risen due to pandemic precautions and the volume of waste being processed.

As of the end of October, SWP was predicting an overspend of £1.186million – the equivalent of around 2.5 per cent of its annual budget. Of this, £1.045million came from additional costs relating to Suez collections to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and inflationary pressures.

Christian Evans, the SWP’s strategic manager for finance, said in a report: “The current agreement with Suez is that payments for direct costs related to Covid will continue. This is considered prudent in order to maintain service stability. We will continue to negotiate this position with Suez,

“There has been an incorrect allocation of inflation since the commencement of the collection contract.”

He said the remaining £141,000 of the overspend related to increased waste volumes at recycling centres.

In the initial SWP proposals for its 2022/23 budget, Somerset West and Taunton will see the second biggest rise among the four Somerset districts at 10.3 per cent (£447,740).

Somerset County Council’s contribution will fall by £752,717 – the equivalent of 2.4 per cent – but it will still contribute the most out of the five current councils.

Mr Evans said: “Household growth figures are provided by each individual district council partner. The current average of these figures is a growth of 0.93 per cent.

“Suez has claimed that they are collecting from a larger number of households than they are being paid for through the contract.

“They have not yet provided any detail to evidence this claim, and we are already working with the district councils to understand and reconcile any differences.”

Daniel Mumby

Local democracy reporter