Questions as ‘Norfolk charity’ takes on Suffolk waste centre shop contract with Bury St Edmunds Gatehouse losing out
- Credit: Su Anderson
A shop selling unwanted items dumped at rubbish tips across Suffolk opened yesterday as council chiefs look to boost reuse by 100%.
However, the decision to award the contract to a “Norfolk charity” and to cut off a two-year agreement with a local Bury St Edmunds charity has prompted questions.
The shop, at the Recycling Centre on Foxhall Road in Brightwell, Ipswich, is being run by the Benjamin Foundation, which currently has services across Norfolk but says it is looking to expand into Suffolk and Cambridge.
It will take items from waste recycling centres in Stowmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Portman’s Walk in Ipswich, Leiston and Lowestoft.
The Gatehouse charity helps vulnerable and elderly people in west Suffolk and offers furniture and domestic items from the Bury centre to help people in need and to raise funds.
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Gatehouse chairman Julia Wakelam described the decision as “disheartening, sad and damaging” and despite coming to a trial agreement that they could still take some items “unwanted” by the Benjamin Foundation, she believes funding and their services are going to be hit.
“We have been shocked by the decision,” she said. “We have taken four to five tonnes of items a week for the last two years. Now we will be left picking up the scraps.”
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She said the awarding of the contract to a charity in Norfolk added “insult to injury”, saying: “It makes no sense at all to give the contract to a Norfolk charity. I have nothing against the Benjamin Foundation, they do great work, but they are not a local charity. I can’t see how this deal benefits anyone in Suffolk other than the Suffolk County Council (SCC) pockets.”
The Green Party councillor on St Edmundsbury Borough Council said because the new shop on Foxhall Road was relatively small, reuse of items could actually drop in Suffolk.
Staff at the waste centres, which are managed by contractors FCC Environment on behalf of SCC, will salvage usable items dumped by residents. People are also being encouraged to take items if they wish to donate them.
The Benjamin Foundation, which supports families, children and the homeless, tendered for the contract with the council and FCC Enviroment.
Both the charity and SCC pointed out that Gatehouse could have tendered for the contract themselves, but Ms Wakelam said taking on seven waste sites and a shop in Ipswich was not an option for a charity of their size and “would not be right” as they do not run services in Ipswich.
“They could have just excluded the Bury site and left us doing what we do. They have not included every waste centre in Suffolk,” she said. “But it is about money and they get some of best reusable items in Bury.”
Matthew Hicks, SCC cabinet member for environment, called the new shop a “great asset to our community”. He rejected the claim that the Benjamin Foundation was a “Norfolk charity”, saying they are planning to deliver services across Suffolk.
“[They] will be opening and working in Suffolk across the board,” Mr Hicks said. Addressing the issue of Gatehouse losing out, he added: “FCC has been in contact with Julia Wakelam and they have agreed a way forward – we have got to work out how the access is going to work but I think that Gatehouse will actually see a positive side of this.”
Mr Hicks said the deal could see reuse of waste items “double” in Suffolk and that the two charities would both benefit. He highlighted environmental benefits and said the deal was good news for Suffolk.
Chief executive of the Benjamin Foundation, Tony Ing, said: “The store is looking great and we can’t wait for even more items to start flooding in. I’m sure the people who donate will feel like they’re giving back to the community.
“Our charity has ambitions to launch other services in Suffolk.
“Through our work in Thetford, Ditchingham and other locations we are already supporting Suffolk residents.”
Find out more about the two charities: As a result of the Suffolk County Council deal with the Benjamin Foundation, Bury St Edmunds based Gatehouse are reminding residents that items at the Bury waste centre on Rougham Hill are no longer going to them. To donate items or money directly to them visit localgiving.com/charity/gatehouse or phone 01284 754967.
According to the Benjamin Foundation website, one children’s service is currently being operated in Suffolk, at Bacton Primary School and you can find out more about how to support them and their services by visiting www.benjaminfoundation.co.uk