‘No quick fix’ for Derbyshire Dales bins crisis

Struggling bin collection services in the Dales have been missing pickups for more than a month and now the council is looking to provide more money to keep it going.

Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 10:53 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 11:41 am
Residents in the Dales have had their bins missed on a regular basis for a month or more

Derbyshire Dales District Council is once again looking to cough up more money to ensure bin collection services run for it by private contractor Serco do not collapse.

Residents in the Dales have had their bins missed on a regular basis for a month or more due to, the council says, HGV driver shortages and Covid isolation, calling it an “emergency situation”.

In the latest update from the council, it says nearly 30 areas of the Dales had missed bin collections on Monday (July 19) alone, including Wirksworth, Brailsford, Kirk Ireton, Shirley, Tideswell and Taddington.

The missed bins are thought to largely be recycling pickups.

Council officials said: “Serco have reported further staff absences today that they are unable to cover due to the continuing national driver shortage.”

Ahead of the weekend, the council said that it was to temporarily scrap its food waste collection service from July 26 for three months.

Food waste should be put in with household waste while the “emergency measures” continue.

Despite the backlog in collections, the council says no excess recycling – material which does not fit in your bin or sack – will be collected.

The council says if it has been four days since your scheduled collection and your bin has still not been emptied, it will not be collected until the next regularly scheduled day.

It says it is looking to introduce “bring sites” in hotspot locations of the Dales on Saturdays in which a bin lorry would be parked and residents can drop off excess recycling.

These measures may now be adjusted.

A crunch meeting is being held on July 27 from 6pm to discuss the waste and recycling services. On the table are plans to contribute to a pay rise for HGV staff in a bid to encourage people to apply for and fill vacant positions.

Also up for consideration are plans to lease an extra garden waste vehicle and to temporarily suspend garden waste.

All of this comes within two weeks of the authority flatly rejecting a call from Cllr Peter O’Brien for an investigation into its “inadequate” bin collection service.

The council had denied the service was in “meltdown”.

Cllr Chris Furness, chairman of the community and environment committee, had said: “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.”

The council has already given Serco £250,000 extra to keep collections going through lockdown – even though the garden waste service stopped for four months last year.

Serco missed 450,000 pickups during the first lockdown.

Last August, the council gave Serco a further £101,185 to last for six months to help hire temporary collection vehicles. This was due to manufacturing delays on a new £3.6 million fleet being paid for by the council – delays caused by the pandemic.

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.

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.

The council said earlier this month: “Residents’ patience and understanding at the start of the pandemic when bin collections were disrupted due to staff absences caused by Covid isolations was much appreciated.

“The staffing situation at our contractor Serco – caused in part by a national shortage of drivers and also by new Covid isolations – is now just as acute as it was in the early months of the pandemic.

“The driver shortage is a UK-wide problem affecting different contractors, agencies and many local councils, including neighbouring authorities across Derbyshire. Councils that run their own in-house waste service are also affected.

“We continue to work hard with Serco to address the issues, but we need to be frank with residents in conceding there is no quick fix.

“It is well-documented that there is a desperate shortage of drivers nationally – estimated at more than 70,000 – a situation that has been described by the Road Haulage Association to be of “catastrophic proportions”.

“Covid-19 has delayed driver training and testing and it is a fact that some EU drivers have left the UK as a direct consequence of Brexit. Further exacerbating the situation is the increased demand for available drivers caused by the recent reopening of non-essential retail.

“We sincerely apologise for issues that are currently out of our control. For the time being please leave out any missed containers.”