Lithgow City Council decided at the recent Council meeting that after not being satisfied with SKG Cleaning Services for the past five years, to bring the cleaning service back in house with their own employees.
This decision means there will be a reduction in services to accommodate an estimated increase of $86,656 to bring the services back to Council.
But it will open up six new positions to local residents as council will be advertising for a cleaning supervisor, a cleansing truck driver and four cleaners.
Council's Director of Infrastructure Services Jonathon Edgecombe said council was bringing the service in house with the knowledge and understanding that it will result in additional control and its own staff compared with that of contractors.
"While there are additional costs expected, we feel that the priority is ensuring that we can be more flexible, aware and customer-oriented in our delivery of these services to our staff and the community," he said.
Mr Edgecombe said the hiring of locals is always in the forefront of their minds and the vast majority of their employees live locally.
"However, our absolute priority is securing the best individual for the role, whoever that ends up being, as Council prides itself on being an equal opportunity employer.
"Where we hire from outside the LGA, those employees move locally more often than not, which is also a very positive outcome."
The budget planning for 2021/22 has already seen the administration propose a range of strategies to increase income and reduce expenditure to mitigate the impacts of cost pressures, reduced investment income and lower cash inflows.
As the service will not generate income it may mean a reduction in contract cleaning services in the future, less mowing, less road maintenance, reduced library and aquatic centre opening hours or a reduction in administration staff.
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At the council meeting on Monday, February 22 councillor Deanna Goodsell said she didn't understand why council was so keen to bring it in house rather then go back out to tender.
"We are voting to lose $86,000 worth of services, no one knows what will be cut, but why don't we go out to tender again with a revised contract?" she said.
"We should be seeing what's out there, we can always decide to come back in house...just because this one hasn't worked out doesn't mean another won't.
"We could get our cake and eat it to."
Currently Lithgow Council has an existing contract with SKG cleaning services which will continue until July, 1 to allow for sufficient time for recruitment and fleet lease arrangements.
In 2015, Lithgow City Council went through an open tender process and engaged SKG cleaning contractors to service the Council owned facilities and amenities.
This tender process and subsequent report to Council provided a list of assets which require servicing, the expected frequency of cleaning, and a schedule of rates for any additional requirements.
According to council the tender assessment panel also conducted reference checks for SKG which highlighted some concerns regarding service quality and inaccurate initial tender pricing at that time.
The annual cost of using SKG was put at $311,815.90 compared to having in house cleaners which would cost council $620,6872.17.
Council then entered into a five year contract with SKG to provide cleaning services within the Lithgow LGA.
A list of facilities serviced in this schedule are:
- Council Administration & Office Buildings
- Visitors Information Centre
- Public Toilets
- Bus Shelters
- Portland & Wallerawang CBD Footpaths
- Public Halls; Depots
- Miscellaneous Buildings
- Capertee & Glen Davis Public Toilets
- Reserve Grounds maintenance.
From the first full financial year the contract was in effect, the following payments have been made to SKG.
Council said there have been changes in usage patterns of some of the infrastructure, including Lake Wallace and Glen Davis campground becoming more popular.
This has seen complaints and concerns from the local community in the upkeep of the grounds.
So Council has put more time and effort into keeping these of standard, thus estimating an additional $43,854.72 per year.
Over the last three years of contract costs paid to SKG and adding the administrative costs each year, the average total yearly cost of this contracted service is $447,628.84 compared to the $311,815.90 as originally stated.
The Lithgow public has had many complaints about the SKG service that is being provided.
According to council they have received 272 complaints by phone and in addition, many Councillors have claimed to receive comments and complaints that are verbally communicated to the administration.
Councillor Cassandra Coleman said council needed to take responsibility for the lack of standards the cleaning company have shown over the past five years.
"Brining the cleaning in house will give employment to the town and allow us to have flexibility over the cleaning services," she said.
"It will also show good faith with community, the amount of complaints and commentary in regards to issue has been ongoing for five years and hopefully this will put a rest to it."
According to Council providing the service in house is expected to result in increased service and reduced administrative burden.
While council acknowledges that they will have more control with the cleaning service in house, they realise that wilful damage and unexpected events will continue to result in community feedback.
Cr Wayne McAndrew said choosing SKG Cleaning Services was a decision he has had to live with for five years.
"I want it recognised I voted against it five years ago, I was sceptical of the figures then and the report proves I was right," he said.
"Council has a lot of responsibilities and I think cleaning is one of our core responsibilities, we are judged by how we look after our public facilities that we are responsible for and over the past five years thats been lost.
"It's five years over due, I support it comes in house."
You can find the full report at Lithgow Council's website.