Somerset looks set to sign on PFI-free waste contract

Somerset County Council is in the final stages of negotiations with home-grown waste giant Viridor before signing off a 25 year waste management contract.

And the council will be going it alone, without the backing of the private sector in the form of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Jason Jones, procurement manager for the council told edie they would hope to have the details agreed by the end of the financial year and work would begin as soon as the contract was signed.

"It's a strategic partner agreement, using their knowledge to achieve our targets," he said.

Mr Jones would not be drawn on the exact value of the multi-million pound contract before the deal was signed but said it was among the biggest waste deals in the country.

"It's difficult to say at this stage as the final details have not been decided and it's not just running the long-term landfill and recycling programme, it will also include the provision of more waste treatment facilities," he said.

"We are possibly looking at two facilities coming on line at different times during the contract."

He would not say what technology those facilities might have at their core, but said Somerset could afford to be fairly relaxed about this as they were not under the shadow of a looming waste crisis and it was not imperative to have any new facilities operational before 2010.

"We don't have to rush into anything," he said.

"Our existing facilities give us plenty of breathing space."

Viridor, itself based in Somerset's Taunton, would take on the council's interest in Wyvern Waste Services, a waste disposal business it established in 1992.

Wyvern would continue the manage the council's household waste recycling centres, composting source-segregated food and garden waste, operating three existing landfill sites as well as waste transfer stations, waste collection and managing hazardous and electrical equipment waste.

Jill Shortland, deputy leader of the council, said: "We have had productive discussions with Viridor.

"The proposals we are moving forward on will provide continued excellent waste services for the people of Somerset.

"We have negotiated a fair price for our shareholding in Wyvern Waste and wish Wyvern well under their new owners.

"Viridor will provide the essential investment needed to develop waste services further and the partnership will be strong and more than capable of working with us to meet the difficult challenges in waste management that lie ahead."

Mike Hellings, Viridor's managing director said: "Since November an excellent working relationship has already been established through negotiations on key issues.

"Discussions have been held in a spirit of goodwill and partnership. Both parties will work together in a positive manner to continue to provide high quality waste management and higher levels of recycling and recovery in Somerset.

"We now look forward to successfully finalising the negotiations, welcoming on board the staff of Wyvern, and working closely with the county in the years to come to meet common aims and objectives."

By Sam Bond



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