Blackpool council spends £400k on street sweeping fleet three years after buying new fleet

One of Blackpool's litter clean-up crews in action at the Pleasure Beach
One of Blackpool's litter clean-up crews in action at the Pleasure Beach
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Town hall chiefs are to invest nearly £400,000 in new mechanical sweepers to keep Blackpool’s streets clean – just three years after last investing in the fleet.

Six of the existing eight machines, which were purchased in 2013, will be sold with the two with the best service record being retained as spare vehicles.

Coun Tony Williams

Coun Tony Williams

A council report says the vehicles “are recognised as having an economical working life of three years after which reliability and maintenance costs become prohibitive to providing a consistent and cost efficient service.”

But the move was today branded as another example of “incompetence”.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said: “I find it astonishing the council’s street cleaning machines have a shelf life of a mere three years when these are tough and robust little vehicles.

“I have spoken to other local authorities who have confirmed they are getting between six and 10 years service from similar machines.

“Manufacturers also state these machines should have a much longer life-span provided the are serviced regularly.

“In this scenario this is going to add another £400,000 of borrowing, plus inflation every three years, to the town’s already massive debt.

“It’s just another diabolical example of bad negotiatons and purchasing howlers by this council and once again the residents of Blackpool have to cough up for their incompetence.”

Blackpool Council’s executive committee agreed the council should borrow £393,000 over three years to finance the purchase of six replacement road sweepers, made up of a purchase price of £360,000 and £33,000 interest.

It will be paid back at a rate of £131,000 a year out of the street cleansing service budget.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the new machines were essential in order to keep the streets clean.

He said: “There’s no getting around the fact street sweeping vehicles are expensive. That is because they are heavy duty pieces of machinery that are only manufactured by a small amount of specialist companies.

“To put the cost in context, an average street sweeper is running six hours a day for seven days of the week, all among sea spray and sand which only accelerates the wear and tear on the vehicles.

“After its life span the vehicle is out of warranty and it becomes significantly more expensive to service and repair, meaning purchasing new equipment becomes a more sensible decision financially.

“These newer machines are also fitted with extra equipment to spray weeds while they clean, which will save staff time, and have greater fuel efficiency, so will cost less to run.

“The alternative to not buying these machines is to no longer sweep the streets – something which we’re not prepared to let happen.”

At the same time, the executive also agreed to borrow £350,000 over five years to buy three cherry pickers for use by the Illuminations team, replacing leased equipment.

Three separate companies contacted by The Gazette quoted life span expectancy between seven and 10 years for machines similar to the ones used by Blackpool Council for local authorities in other areas.