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Last week, when writing about the industry's need to adapt to new cleaning challenges because lockdown has forced the closure of many of the facilities that had previously required regular cleaning, I didn’t envisage the type of work I saw advertised later that day… The advertisement, placed by a housing co-operative, was for ‘companies to quote/tender for servicing/cleaning three housing estates in the Brentford area’. What made it stand out, was that as well as the work one would expect to be required in such locations, the need to ‘clear up after the local refuse collection service’ was a stipulation!
If you’re one of our UK-based readers you’ll probably be aware of the furore caused by the shamefully inadequate food parcels being supplied on behalf of Government, to children from poor families being home-schooled during lockdown, who are normally entitled to free school meals. If you’re not, our picture shows how the media was alerted to the problem by one disappointed mother.
Parcels subsequently displayed on social media varied enormously but none were what sensible people would describe as value-for-money or substantial. One even included five plastic bottles of water! Each parcel was supposed to provide five healthy meals and was charged out to the taxpayer at £30. That these parcels were the work of a major contractor, has served to inflame the public’s ire towards the practice of contracting out. The pitch I was given by contractors upon joining this industry almost 30 years ago, was that putting services such as cleaning and catering into the hands of specialists, would result in better standards and free up a company to concentrate on its core business – potentially improving the ‘bottom line’.
Although as far as I’m aware we’re not related, I was brought up to follow the mantra penned by Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, to his son in 1746: ‘If you’re going to do a job, do it well’, and I'd add here: 'be it collecting refuse or supplying food parcels to hungry children – or anything else!' This is something our industry, which is already under public scrutiny, would do well to remember, since what’s to prevent clients from taking the work back in-house? And that includes contracted-out refuse collections. I have to ask though, are we clearing up after our refuse collectors because they’re haphazard, or because they’re overstretched?
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14th January 2021