Council to tackle contractor over missed rubbish collections

Monday 13th June 2022 11:00 am
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COUNCIL chiefs have revealed they are keeping a daily check on their waste disposal contractors after West Devon residents suffered a raft of missed collections.

West Devon Borough Council’s influential hub committee was told that although contractors FFC’s performance had improved recently, officers were still keeping a close eye on the firm.

Councillors were considering a report updating the performance of the contractors, who are responsible for collecting waste and recyling material from the doorsteps of West Devon residents.

The update came against a background of months of missed collections, blamed initially on the twin effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and a national shortage of lorry drivers.

But the report said the contractor had breached the terms of their contract ‘repeatedly’ since October last year.

That means they are allowed to miss up to 80 collections per 100,000 before they break the terms of their contract.

It says a graph, presented to councillors at Tuesday’s meeting, showed that FCC have repeatedly breached the threshold of 80 since October of last year with March being approximately six times that (of) the contract standard.

The report, which outlined the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, made it clear that FCC, who are also used by neighbouring South Hams District Council, did well during the national lockdown of 2020, despite losing 20 per cent of its staff due to self isolation.

It also examined the effects of the driver shortage and said: ‘The widely reported National HGV/LGV driver shortage has compounded the operational issues. In July 2021, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated a shortage of over 100,000 drivers.

‘This has resulted in pay rates increasing as the various industry sectors try to ensure that they retain and attract enough drivers for their businesses.

‘The knock-on effect of this is that FCC has seen a number of drivers resign to get better pay rates, (and) it has then struggled to attract new drivers and there is no temporary/agency capacity to backfill these roles or cover sickness absences.’

It said the contractors had introduced a raft of measures, including a national and local recruitment campaign, devising a bonus scheme that rewards performance and loyalty to retain staff, introducing a driver apprenticeship scheme and increasing the flexibility of employment, for example with part-time roles.

The council’s director customer service delivery, Steve Mullineaux, said the staff on the ground were ‘working their socks’ off, but the problem seemed to be with management and supervision.

He said FCC’s performance had originally been examined on a quarterly basis, but was now done each day.

Cllr Caroline Mott also backed the staff actually making the collections and said residents had made it clear to her that they were supportive of the workers and respected the job they did.

And Cllr Peter Crozier added that while problems in the past three months ‘had been particularly bad’, he felt some sympathy with the contractors.

He said: ‘If people test positive for Covid, they are not going to turn up (for work) and it is difficult to replace them.’

Councillors have recommended they consider all ‘available options’, which can include penalties, while they continue to monitor FCC’s performance.

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