Lake council to award $100m contract

THE biggest council tender in Hunter history is set to be awarded at Lake Macquarie City Council tonight.

The $100 million contract, which amounts to about $1400 for every household, is for the supply of bins and waste collection for the council’s proposed third-bin service.

It is a battle between the forces of socialism and capitalism.

Councillors face a decision about whether to proceed with the highest-ranked tenderer, the private company Solo Waste, or the second-ranked tenderer,

the council’s waste department.

The council had to put up a Chinese wall over the bid, so the council department bidding for the work was separate from staff administering the tender.

Labor’s Cr Daniel Wallace said it would be the biggest council tender in Hunter history.

He said the matter had split council directors, with some favouring a private operator and others wanting to keep it in-house.

‘‘Some directors support council staff getting this work because they think it’s a fundamental and core activity of council,’’ Cr Wallace said.

Cr Wallace supports the council getting the contract.

He said it was a big risk to give a 25-year contract to a private company, particularly in an industry that would change significantly over that period.

‘‘All these big tenderers have risk in their contracts,’’ he said.

‘‘If that risk doesn’t come to fruition, it’s pure profit for them.

‘‘I’d like to see the council take the responsibility to minimise the risk and get that profit.’’

He was concerned about handing such an important public service to the private sector.

‘‘If Solo were to go belly up or lock out the workforce, how would we pick up bins?’’ he said.

Liberal Cr Anthony Birt said council staff had shown using private enterprise would be better value.

‘‘It’s about keeping costs down for the community,’’ Cr Birt said.

‘‘It’s not inherently wrong to use private enterprise, especially as we’ve just gone through a process to save costs and ask residents to take on higher rates.’’

The council runs general-waste collection, but the tender is for organic-waste collection in a third bin.

The council will reduce general waste pick-ups from once a week to fortnightly, two to three years after the third bin is introduced.

Cr Wallace said the move could lead to redundancies in the council’s garbage-collection workforce.

If Solo won the tender, the council would be ‘‘outsourcing 60 per cent of its work’’ for the collection of general and organic waste, he said.

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