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Pandemic costs waste collector Ansa £5m added expenses

The pandemic cost Ansa, the company that collects waste from Congleton, Sandbach and Holmes Chapel and Alsager some £5m, its annual report has said.

In its annual report for year to 31st March, the company said the national lockdowns through 2020/21 and 2021/22 had hit its income and increased operating costs for core services, resulting in an increase in costs of £118,000 in 2019/20, £3.1 in 2020/21 and a further £1.8m in 2021/22.

Ansa is an arms-length company owned by Cheshire East Council, which reimbursed the company, leaving its finances unaffected and the report said Ansa “performed strongly” in its ninth year of trading, recording a profit of £93,000, down from £230,000 the year before. A rebate to Cheshire East linked mainly to improvements in recycling and improvements led to the lower profit.

The report said core contract efficiencies plus maintaining 2020/21 commercial profits contributed to this return in what it said had been “a significant year “for Ansa, delivering a service transformation during a global pandemic.

In 2019/20, Ansa implemented changes collaboration with Cheshire East, which introduced a new composting plant. This contributed to an increase in the annual recycling rate to 57.5% for 2020/21, making Cheshire East the top performing unitary authority in the North West for recycling.

Ansa also reduced the amount of waste being sent for landfill to 1.6% with the balance being sent to a third-party supplier for Energy from Waste production.

Said the report: “This performance is even more impressive given the dramatic fluctuations in kerbside waste tonnages associated with residents spending more time at home and due to a prolonged switch to home working for many. This stripped waste from trade waste rounds and moved it to kerbside collections.” Ansa maintained its kerbside waste collections throughout 2021/22 despite “unprecedented” levels of demand and resourcing pressures associated with shielding, self-isolation, hygiene measures and the challenges of creating a covid secure workplace. The costs were largely passed onto Cheshire East, partially supported by Government funding.

The report said: “At a time when nationally there were widescale reports of other councils suspending services – particularly kerbside waste collections – Ansa continued to deliver services, achieving a 99.89% successful collection rate despite unprecedented levels of pandemic, related resourcing pressures.” The report said that turnover was £43m, the operating profit £191,000.

Turnover increased during the year by £2m, from £41m in 2020/21, mainly due to an increase in the income received from recyclable materials collected at the kerbside.

The report said that following service changes, which included the introduction of comingled food and garden waste collections and associated route and rota optimisation, Ansa required an increased number of drivers and loaders to operate .over a longer working week. It now employs 434 people, up from 410, of which 349 are operational and 85 are management and admin.

In August 2017 Ansa began operating waste and fleet services with another public sector partner through a subsidiary company, Alliance Environmental Services, which covers Staffordshire Moorlands and the High Peak.

In April, 50 employees transfer from another council company, Transport Services Solutions. Ansa Transport includes drivers and attendants as part of special educational needs school transport, Flexi-Link and Go-Too. Ansa Transport also delivers school crossing patrols.
Ansa has also been commissioned to set up and run a two-year project for Cheshire East, a new Green Wellbeing volunteer scheme based in Cheshire East.

In his report, Steven Hogben, company chairman, said: “Our success is totally attributable to the commitment and dedication of our employees. On behalf of all board members, I want to thank all our staff for their contributions, which have made this another successful year for Ansa during uncertain times.

“Staffing pressures proved to be our greatest test, and like most other organisations we have found it challenging to secure adequate resources to address built-up demand, following the relaxation of pandemic restrictions and worsening national/international inflationary pressures.

“At a time when there were widespread reports of other councils standing down services, both Ansa and Alliance maintained their core services despite unprecedented challenges and resourcing pressures.”

Its workforce is made up of 254 waste and street cleansing staff; 77 management and admin, 86 grounds and parks, 10 fleet, 4 business development and 5 contracts and procurement.

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