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Breckland hit by shortage of refuse collectors

Thousands of wheelie bins in Breckland, including in the Swaffham area, have not been emptied due to a reported shortage of refuse collection staff.

Green bins have also not been collected and this has been an ongoing issue.

While bins were missed earlier in the week, most have since been picked up and the team are currently anticipating all bins will have been collected by end of Saturday, so they start the new week on an even keel.

LNF new waste collection contract (50194387)
LNF new waste collection contract (50194387)

The HGV driver shortage is not just affecting the bin service. At times supermarkets have had bare shelves and fuel deliveries have reportedly run low due to delays in deliveries.

Sarah Suggitt, Breckland Council’s executive member for planning, leisure and contracts said: “We understand that not having your bin collected as planned can be frustrating and we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

"The delays are largely as a result of a shortage of driver availability, due to summer holidays and non-Covid sickness. This is compounded by a national shortage of HGV drivers, making recruiting more difficult not only for us but across the country and a number of sectors.

“To tackle this, all qualified drivers are being put onto the waste collection service, crews are completing each day’s daily scheduled work and then returning to collect any outstanding bins from previous incomplete rounds, and the team will be working over the weekend.

"As a result, we expect all bin collections will be completed before the end of the week and I’d like to thank our crews for working so hard to get round to everybody’s bins as quickly as possible.

“The shortage of HGV drivers and delays in HGV driving tests is a national issue due to the pandemic and so we are working closely with our provider, Serco, who is developing a national plan to mitigate these issues and minimise future disruption to services as much as possible.”

Residents whose bins have not been collected are asked to leave them out, as the crews will return as soon as possible to complete collection rounds.

In March it was announced that Serco had won a combined contract worth more than £230 million over nine years to collect rubbish in the North Norfolk, West Norfolk and Breckland council areas.

A statement at the time on the West Norfolk Council website said: "Serco will be collecting household general waste bins and recycling bins on alternate weeks, as well as offering a bulky waste collections service.

"The combined contract is worth in excess of £230m and will initially run for nine years in North Norfolk and eight years in Breckland and West Norfolk, with an option to extend by up to a further eight years."

Sam Chapman-Allen, Breckland Council's leader said: "The new Serco waste contract is a great example of collaboration with our local government partners, ensuring a new deal that will deliver an even better service than we already receive, at a best-value price.

"The new waste collection vehicles are a real improvement, especially as they will now make our collections more energy and fuel efficient, which is also great for our environment. I'm confident that residents will really notice the difference over the coming months.”

So, with a new and improved service, why have the bins not been collected as expected?

In parts of Breckland the wheelie bins have not been collected on time since Monday, with a couple of thousand still not emptied on time, although this is now rectified. The council have said that the reasons are due to staff sickness and not enough staff to be able to do the rounds effectively.

It is suggested that if the bins are still not collected on time, to leave then out and they will get round to them.

When people ask on Google how much do binmen and women get paid, it gives a figure between £24,000 and £26,000. With staff shortages and absence due to the issues faced with Covid -19 and isolating there has been a need to recruit drivers and workers from agencies, which requires training and further expense short term.

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