Bins crisis caused by 'perfect storm'

Cllr Mark Inskip with selfie f

Cllr Mark Inskip with selfie from Sunday evening on an East Cambs village street lined with uncollected black bags - Credit: Mark Inskip

Opposition councillor Mark Inskip has called for a five-point action plan to solve the growing crisis of bin collections in East Cambridgeshire.  

“East Cambs Street Scene has been hit by a perfect storm of events causing performance to plummet and a failure to deliver the services residents expect,” he said. 

Cllr Inskip released his action plan ahead of the day the district faced another day of missed collections. 

On Friday night council leader Anna Bailey took to the council’s Facebook page to “apologise for the disruptions that residents have experienced”. 

Refused piled up in Windmill Walk 

Refuse piled up in Windmill Walk - Credit: Contributed

Earlier the council said they were “sorry” after Stretham, Chittering, Wilburton, Coveney, Pymoor and Little Downham did not get their Friday collection.  

"This is owing to ongoing staff shortages, which are being urgently addressed,” said a council statement. 

Cllr Inskip (Lib Dem) said: “We can no longer wait for another week or two in the hope that things will improve, urgent action is needed.” 

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His plan calls for additional management support to East Cambs Screet Scene (ECSS) the council owned company that runs waste services.  

He also wants staff moved from other parts of the council to help and external management expertise brought.  

Cllr Inskip said a review of pay for HGV drivers was needed and whether current salaries “are at appropriate market rates”. 

And he also wants a staff survey to  test staff morale.  

“Two months ago, ECSS introduced new refuse collection rounds promising to improve service efficiency for residents and reduce carbon emissions,” he said.  

“The experience of many residents has been very different with repeated missed collections, with days and on occasions weeks without a collection.  

8pm Friday in Cambridge Road Ely 3

8pm Friday in Cambridge Road Ely 3 - Credit: Mark Inskip

“Having your wheelie bin emptied and black bins collected on time is a basic service that every council should provide.” 

Cllr Inskip said the problems could be summarised as “HGV driver shortages, poorly executed round reconfiguration, the timing of that, and morale.” 

He said it was important to offer a competitive salary.  

The current HGV driver vacancy with ECSS is advertised at a salary of £23,484.  

“When I researched other opportunities a local private waste company were recruiting to a similar role in East Cambs with a salary of £31,981,” he said. 

“A number of HGV refuse driver jobs could be found paying just over £27,000”. 

8pm Friday in Cambridge Road Ely 3

8pm Friday in Cambridge Road Ely - Credit: Mark Inskip

Cllr Inskip said ECSS was also responsible for street cleansing, emptying litter bins and dog bins, clearing away fly tipping and removing graffiti.  

“The latest performance report shows that this aspect of the service is falling a very long way below the agreed targets,” he added. 

Cllr Bailey said the round reconfiguration was a huge logistical challenge but “very necessary”. 

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council - Credit: ECDC

Once they had been introduced “we then experienced far higher than normal sickness rates and staffing issues which have caused the issues with rounds not being collected on the correct days”.  

She said: “The service is then in constant catch up mode and with staffing issues it is hard to get back on top.”  

Extra resources were being sought “and I really do hope that residents will begin to see improvements to the service very soon now.  

She praised the commitment of the refuse crews and said other councils were experiencing similar issues. 

Many took to the council’s Facebook to air their views, most concerned about non collections and rubbish being allowed to pile up. 

“Black bags being attacked by birds and cats...food everywhere... it's just not rite... we must have the only council that doesn't supply black wheelie bins,” wrote one resident.  

And another added: “The rubbish has not been collected. Feral animals have opened the bags and various waste is in the street; a chicken carcass covered in flies is in the gutter.” 

East Cambs Council - waste performance chart

East Cambs Council - waste performance chart - Credit: ECDC

One refuse worker also replied,  claiming drivers had left because of the confusion over the reconfigured rounds.   

Sunday evening on an East Cambs village street lined with uncollected black bags

Sunday evening on an East Cambs village street lined with uncollected black bags - Credit: Mark Inskip

However not everyone has been critical of the council.

One reader said: "Most places are currently short staffed. Although it's not our fault or problem it's not the fault of the staff either they are trying their best ,as are supermarkets etc.

"Patience is needed all around I think. It's not the end of the world."

FOOTNOTE:
Tell us your experiences of refuse collections in East Cambs. Email john.elworthy@archant.co.uk and attach any images you may have. We will respect your anonymity if asked.