Council denies Derbyshire Dales bin collections are in 'meltdown'

Derbyshire Dales District Council has flatly rejected an investigation into its “inadequate” bin collection service.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 11:56 am
The council has received numerous complaints about its bin service in recent weeks

A Derbyshire council has flatly rejected an investigation into its “inadequate” bin collection service.

Over the past few months, residents in the Derbyshire Dales have been complaining about the bin collection service outsourced to Serco through a contract with Derbyshire Dales District Council.

This has led to many residents not having their bins collected on time and waiting longer to have them emptied.

Among those are residents who chose to pay extra for the garden waste collection service, only for their bins to not be emptied on time.

The issue is said to be caused by a national shortage of HGV drivers, with the council asking Serco to pay staff more and attempt to source drivers from other nearby councils.

Dales council taxpayers have already propped up Serco to the tune of £350,000 since the start of the pandemic, to keep bin collections going through multiple lockdowns and Covid outbreaks.

Taxpayers in the Dales have already been drawn in to paying £1 million extra for the new contract with Serco, which started in August last year – totalling £3.1 million annually.

In a meeting this week (July 6), Cllr Peter O’Brien asked: “You will be aware, not least from the residents of Bradwell, that the current standard of the refuse collection service across the district is unacceptable, notwithstanding the fact that an additional £350,000 of support was offered to Serco by the council in 2020/21.

“In these circumstances, and given that residents pay their council tax to the council not Serco, do you agree that an independent investigation into all aspects of the current unacceptable situation should be undertaken urgently, including the nature of the contractual arrangements between the parties?”

In response, Cllr Chris Furness, chairman of the community and environment committee, said: “Whilst some areas of the Dales are experiencing disruption in their waste and recycling collections and we apologise to those residents who are affected, the service is not in meltdown, as has been suggested, and we are doing all we can to address the situation.

“The council and its elected members are fully aware of what the issues are and an independent inquiry is not going to change the situation.

“This issue is not specific to Serco or the Derbyshire Dales and we are aware there are many other local authorities who are experiencing the same difficulties.

“The disruption to the waste collection service is a direct result of the national shortage of HGV drivers, which has been widely covered in both industry and national press.

“We are working closely with Serco’s senior management to come up with a solution and a number of steps have already been taken, including: Increasing the rates of pay for drivers; trying to source drivers from other contracts and councils; and the upskilling of staff.

“Whilst progress is being made, at this stage there is no quick fix but please be assured we will continue to work hard to resolve this and to return to a normal standard of service.”

Cllr O’Brien suggested the council should compensate residents  who have received an “inadequate” service over the past three months.

Serco has been approached for comment but has not responded as of this article’s publication.

In mid-June, the council said it would take legal action “if necessary” to ensure bin collections happen as contractually agreed by the authority and Serco.

In August last year, when the council had agreed to give a further £100,000 to Serco, Cllr Furness had been among councillors saying Serco should waive the extra fees due to its colossal profit margins.

At the time, Serco had recorded a profit increase of 53 per cent to £77.6 million – more than double the entire annual budget of the Conservative-run council.

Cllr Furness had said that the extra funding “wouldn’t have made the slightest blip” in Serco’s accounts, as an “extremely profitable company” and had lost his sympathies for the firm.

Last year, garden waste bin collections had to be stopped for four months – missing 450,000 pick-ups, but Serco still received its full monthly contract fee.