New bin collection rules in North and East Herts “will meet the needs” of residents, even if it is not what they “want”, councillors have said.

North Herts Council’s cabinet members have agreed to be more flexible in their waste contract negotiations.

The authority’s existing seven-year contract with Urbaser runs out in 2025.
North Herts Council and its partner East Herts Council are in the process of selecting a service provider for the new contract, which will cover bin rounds across both authority areas – including in Letchworth, Hitchin, Baldock and Royston.

Negotiators could agree to a “3,3,3” collection rota, which would mean residents will need to separate their dry recycling and residual waste, and each stream would be collected every three weeks.

Alternatively, negotiators could agree to fully commingled dry recycling, so the provider will collect the different materials at the same time.

Approximately 30 per cent of public litter bins could disappear from the authorities’ areas, and they could also scrap dedicated seasonal leaf fall clearance.

Fly tip removal could take up to five working days – up from the two working days requirement in place for small fly tips during the current contract.

Negotiators could also lift the requirement for providers to collect single missed bins by 5pm the following day.

According to meeting reports by both authorities, council negotiators need more flexibility because “the costs of a new contract will be significantly over budget”.

The report also notes that officers have tried to find savings against the prices which they received through a “dialogue with bidders”.

At a North Herts Council meeting on Tuesday, December 12, Liberal Democrat councillor Ruth Brown, the authority’s deputy leader, said: “It’s not just about recycling more.

“It’s actually about reducing waste.

“We want to reduce our overall waste, as well as reuse and recycle more.

“One of the things I really welcome about this new design is the closer alignment with East Herts and the shared service which is bringing more efficiencies.

“There are things which could be better aligned and this service design does that.

“What we have here is a service that meets the needs of residents – it might not meet their wants, but it will meet their needs.”

Labour councillor Ian Albert, North Herts Council’s executive member for finance, said: “Here we are dealing with the practical outturn of what has happened with the last 13 years of Conservative governments.

“We as a council, working with our colleagues in East Herts, have got to resolve those issues for the benefit of residents.”

He added: “Do we wish that government was funding local authorities properly and sufficiently?


“Yes, we do.”

According to the Local Government Association, local authorities’ spending power fell by 17.5 per cent between 2009/10 and 2019/20, before partially recovering. 

Cllr Albert hit out at a claim by Conservative MP Bim Afolami that plans could leave the area with the “worst bin collection rota” in the East of England.

“Actually, we are ahead of the game in a number of the areas,” Cllr Albert said.

“The message to Mr Afolami is, ‘now you’re Economic Secretary to the Treasury [since November 13], help us fund local authorities properly and we can actually deliver even more for residents.”

The authorities have yet to choose a final service design.

If negotiators opt for a “3,3,3” cycle, residual or “black bag” waste rounds would take place once every three weeks.

Containers (cans, plastics and glass) and cardboard with paper rounds would take place on the other two weeks.

Householders would have their food waste taken weekly.

If the authorities agree to a contract for fully commingled recycling, black bin bags will be collected fortnightly.

The plan for a three-weekly black bin bag collection was drawn up in 2022, by the Labour and Liberal Democrat-run North Herts Council and the former Conservative administration at East Herts Council.

Mr Afolami criticised these plans in 2022, and earlier this year said he had “concerns – particularly around the plans to reduce street cleansing, remove litter bins and leave fly-tipping on the roadside for longer”.

He added: “I will monitor these decisions very closely.”

The Green and Liberal Democrat East Herts Council executive will meet on Thursday, December 21, where members will also debate increased flexibility for contract negotiations.