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Breckland bin collection problems 'could take months to resolve', operator admits

The company responsible for bin collections in Breckland has pledged to “stabilise” its delay-hit service – but warned it could take weeks or months.

At a Thursday meeting of the district council’s Overview and Scrutiny Commission, representatives from Serco explained the recent problems they’d encountered.

The area has been hit by bin collection delays, an issue being seen nationally.

Bin collections could be disrupted for weeks or even months yet, operators have warned.
Bin collections could be disrupted for weeks or even months yet, operators have warned.

Ronnie Coutts, managing director of Serco environmental services, said more people working from home had meant more waste being disposed of at home.

In Breckland, Serco had seen a 15pc rise in waste needing to be collected in 2020/21 compared with 2017/18 – the equivalent of 9,825 additional properties being built in Breckland in just two years.

At the same time, the company has been contending with “serious supply chain” issues.

Emma Windle, who manages Serco’s Breckland contract, said this was “mostly down to Covid but obviously Brexit had a significant impact as well”.

She added that better pay being offered by companies like Tesco had contributed to a driver shortage.

“It is phenomenal what they’re offering,” said Ms Windle.

Serco has offered its staff a 1.75pc pay rise along with an “attractive attendance allowance”.

Mr Coutts said the company had developed a plan to train and retain more drivers and would refine its target operating model to ensure it could cope with increased waste tonnages.

Labour group leader Terry Jermy said: “Residents that I represent in Thetford and across the whole of the district have received a very poor service this year and frankly I feel we’ve been badly let down.”

He said Serco had been “slow to act” after concerns had been raised earlier in the year, before asking when normal service would resume.

Mr Coutts said it would take “a number of weeks and months” to get the service where they wanted it to be, and there was a need “to be realistic at this stage”.

But Conservative councillor Lynda Turner said residents in her wards understood Serco had prioritised certain services to cope with the difficulties they’d encountered.

She said: “The majority of residents in my patch, I would say 99pc, are just so grateful to your guys for what they’ve done, especially during the pandemic.”

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