A four-year process to appoint a new waste contractor for Southend has been branded a “dog’s dinner” amid calls of a “cover up”.

The new waste deal, set to begin next April, will introduce wheelie bins for recycling and waste, as well as alternate weekly collections.

During a meeting on Monday, frustrated councillors claimed decisions around the the new contract had been made by council officers, rather than councillors and claimed “information had been hidden from residents”.

At the meeting, it emerged a public consultation was ruled out in April 2023 under the previous Labour-led administration as being a “hindrance”. Details of the new contract, including allowing a four-week suspension of the garden waste service over the Christmas period each year, have only recently been shown to councillors.

Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour Group, said standards for the service had been set by council officers and not agreed by councillors.

James Moyies, Conservative councillor for Shoebury ward, who recently resigned from the cabinet, called for the meeting’s part two discussions to be discussed in public rather than private.

He said: “I believe there has been a cover up and we’re being asked to take part in a cover up. I will be proposing we do not go into part two. There’s been enough secrecy and we’ve been hiding information from our residents for too long and the truth has to come out. I believe there has been incorrect decision making that in my opinion puts the procurement process at risk.”

Those with no space for bins will continue to have sacks collected.

Opposition councillors raised concerns about how the new contractor would assess who needed to continue with sack collections and who had room for wheelie bins.

They also feared a strict limit on the number of rubbish sacks to be collected could leave parts of the city covered in rubbish.

Tony Cox, leader of the council, said: “It’s been a whole mess. It’s not the council’s finest hour. It’s been a complete dog’s dinner from start to finish. It’s something that should never, ever be repeated.”

Mr Cowan said all parties had played a part, adding: “There are some big problems around the procurement of this contract and a lot of them rest with members and some of it rests with action taken operationally but we shouldn’t get into a blame game.”