Whereas in Orihuela the household waste disposal service in now a cost-saving municipalised function, a factor that the Partido Popular and CLR are keen to change to privatise once again, in neighbouring Torrevieja, where the service is privatised, the residents there may be facing turmoil, strikes or over inflated costs, due to issues with the management of the privatised contract.

With recent threats of strike action to protect some 50 workers who may lose their jobs, around a quarter of the workforce, a report published this week shows how the immediate future of the service is not sustainable under the current budget allocation.

Waste collection and disposal in Torrevieja has had a long and dark history, with the former mayor, Pedro Ángel Hernández Mateo of the PP, sentenced to three years in prison for committing falsehood and prevarication in awarding the contract, valued at 97.8 million euro, in 2004, which was for a 10 year period, thus set to end in June of this year.

The report warns that, “It would be desirable not to extend the existing contract”, according to the engineer who oversees such matters, but if it has to, then it is done “for the minimum time necessary”, as, according to the report, the service “is obsolete”.

The councillor in charge of procurement, Carmen Gómez, had already anticipated the end of the contract in December, believing that there would be insufficient time to award a new contractor, thus requiring the existing service to continue for up to 2 years.

The report states that the details of the existing contract are not compatible with modern times, as the situation has changed radically, stating how “The city’s population has grown 20% since then”, adding that “the upward revision of the contract in 2009 has not been able to overcome such a steep increase, and the machinery has reached the end of its useful life”, with the trucks that carry 60,000 tons annually now costing more to repair than to replace.

The report also details how the contract award was originally for 9 million euro per year, and with updates and modifications now exceeds 15 million, which the engineer explains that the “economic situation and economic restructuring plan in which the city is immersed does not allow the upward adjustments of a contract in force”, which is what would be required to continue “with the current way of working”.

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