Hertfordshire County Council will bring the running of the county’s ‘household waste recycling centres’ in-house in October.

Currently the council’s network of 17 recycling centres are run by contractors Amey.

But last year the waste giants told the county council that they were losing £1.2milion a year on the contract – largely due to the reductions in the value of recyclable materials and increasing haulage costs.

And – following talks from the council – they formally asked to walk away from the contract, which is due to run until March 2023.

Since then the county council has has been considering a number of options -including insisting that Amey continue with the contract.

But at a virtual meeting of the cabinet on Monday (May 18), councillors agreed to bring the running of the centres – which attract more than 1.8 million visits a year – back under the direct control of the county council, from October 1.

Executive member for community safety and waste management Cllr Terry Hone said the centres had been run “very capably” by Amey.

And he stressed that the current situation demonstrated the “good job” council officers had done on negotiating the contract initially.

But he said the council had not been willing to compromise on the level of service or the amount payable by the council.

And he said the other option was to consider Amey’s request for a ‘divorce’, where Amey would face certain contractual penalties.

“Officers have come to the conclusion, which I agree with,  that the best level of service we can give is by bringing that service in house and managing it in house,” said Cllr Hone.

And he later added: “We have the skills to do it and we think that we can maintain a very high level of service that the residents of Hertfordshire currently get – even in this troubled times – with an in house service.”

He told members of the cabinet there may be some changes that the county council may want to make, some of which had emerged during the process to re-open after Covid-19 closures.

And he said steps would be put in place  to enable operatives currently employed by Amey to come over to the council, under the same or better employment terms.

Meanwhile Cllr Richard Roberts, executive member for adult care and health, said this was an opportunity to look at how the county council wanted the waste and recycling centres to develop.

“This is about planning about waste right across Hertfordshire and this is one of the key elements,” he said.

“And my sense is this gives us an opportunity to decide how we want the household waste recycling centres to develop and how those will link in probably with district collections and all of that side of things.

“I fully support this and also I think if it improves our recycling rates, I think  that would be really helpful as well.

“But I recognise that Amey have done a good job with us. We are grateful for the work that they have done for us and actually grateful for the  support in getting us to allow us this contract and divorce to take place.”

At the meeting the financial detail of the decision – including the penalties faced by Amey in ‘divorcing’ from the contract – were discussed in private.

However it was reported that the cost of the council’s existing contract with Amey had been estimated to be between £2.5 million and £2.8 million less per year than that paid by similar councils elsewhere.

During the meeting Cllr Hone also recognised the work by Amey staff to reopen a number of the household waste and recycling centres, following Covid-19 closures.

And he said they had been very supportive in introducing the necessary social-distancing measures.