WINCHESTER City Council will extend its controversial waste collection contract – despite receiving dozens of complaints in the last few months.

National company Biffa is responsible for disposing of household rubbish from 47,000 households across the district.

Just last month, the city council sent out an apology after Biffa caused a backlog of rubbish in several areas.

This was due to vehicle breakdowns because of the ageing fleet and problems with staff retention and high sickness rates. Biffa is having to use a high number of agency staff unfamiliar with the rounds.

A council report that went to a joint committee with East Hampshire District Council in Petersfield last Thursday said the use of agency staff has "led to collections being affected on an almost daily basis recently, with collections generally being made a day late, and crews working most Saturdays. This further impacts staff health and morale."

The contract is currently shared with East Hampshire District Council, but the city council will be continuing with Biffa alone.

The report states that if standards do not improve there could be a "breach of contract" and legal action.

Council leader Lucille Thompson told the Chronicle: "We've come to the end of our partnership with East Hampshire council, who will now be joining forces with another council. "They didn't tell us they would be breaking off the partnership until very late, and by the time they had told us, we were in need of a new contract and had no-one to help us work on it, leaving us to pick up the pieces.

"We were left with very little option, and therefore, we will be going ahead and continuing with Biffa."

The new contract will keep Biffa as the district waste collection service until October 2020.

Cllr Thompson believes the service will be "much better" after reading the company's latest Service Improvement Plan.

She added: "Following a meeting with Biffa's managing director and reading the Service Improvement Plan, I think things are looking up.

"After the service fell over in June, we told them that it's simply not good enough. Since then, it seems they are taking a lot more action.

"We appreciate there has been a bit of a backlog in July, but that is simply because of the weather.

"It's a very physical job, and the severe heat has affected the the workers' health. It was getting better before then, and I don't think this is a set back."

The plan says that Biffa will hire newer back-up vehicles, in case the older lorries they have break down – a problem that has caused disruption to the service in the past.

It also states that an experienced operations manager is now overseeing the service, and that staff are being paid a higher hourly rate.

Biffa will call the city council contract teams every day to check up on service performance.

The company was contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.