Agenda item

Overview of responsibilities of Portfolio Holder for Environment, Sports and Leisure - Verbal Update


Councillor Jefferies invited the Committee to ask him questions.


Councillor Muldowney stated that there has been lots of disruptions to the bin collection services over the last couple of years and queried what contingency plans were in place to stop the impact from the Just Stop Oil protestors on the waste collection services.


Councillor Jefferies explained that it was difficult to predict that the protestors would dig a tunnel or glue themselves to the road. As there is only one way in and one way out of the depot it did cause disruption to the service and action was taken as soon possible to arrange for the bin collection vehicles to access the site from a different road.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed the actions of the protestors wasn’t the sole reason for problems with the bin collections. A whole host of reasons have contributed towards disruptions to the service such as industrial action and poor working relations. There is a shortage of drivers and a lot of agency drivers, they are now encouraging agency staff to apply to become permanent employees to reduce the dependency on agency staff.


Councillor Muldowney asked if the reason there was reduced numbers of staff was because they were planning to move to two weekly green bin collections.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed that they were going to introduce changes to the frequency of collections in September 2022 and therefore that decision was made. However, once that decision was changed they did start to employ people again.


Councillor Muldowney asked when the decision was made to delay the changes until next year.


Councillor Jefferies said he believed he said it at Full Council early in the Summer but would have to check the date.


Councillor Muldowney requested further information about the reasons for the decision.


Councillor Jefferies clarified that it was to do with the Environment Act and changes the Government is introducing regarding separate food waste collection and therefore it was decided it was best to hold off. He added that there was also a need to stabilise the service and ensure that bins were being collected when they were supposed to be before making further changes.

Councillor Jefferies also stated that he understood that the Government may be providing additional funding for Councils relating to waste collection.


Councillor Muldowney requested confirmation of when collection of the brown bins will be reinstated.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed that from next week all 3 bins will be collected. Councillor Jefferies clarified the decision was made to stop the blue bins as they couldn’t collect all 3 bins due to worker shortages, so they had to suspend the blue bins service. Things have settled down now and normal services can resume.


Councillor Arnold asked if there was now a plan in place to overcome the difficulties with recruiting drivers.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed that they are now recruiting drivers and loaders. They have made sure that they have a baseline and if they get close to that baseline they will advertise jobs.


Councillor Redsell highlighted that Members do appreciate the hard work the drivers and loaders do.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed they have taken steps to make employees feel more valued and they have introduced shorts for employees to wear in the summer, water and suntan lotion has been provided and safari style hats to protect their necks when working in the sun.


Councillor Chukwu queried how many street cleaners there are in Chadwell.


The Strategic Lead for Clean and Green Services confirmed that there are two.


Councillor Muldowney queried when the recycling KPI will be reinstated.


Councillor Jefferies confirmed that he cannot give a specific date today, with the situation with missed bin collections figures are not likely to be accurate. He confirmed that he wanted to set a KPI when they can accurately see what is going on.


Councillor Muldowney requested sight of the report prepared by the external Consultant following his review of the service and queried why it had not been brought to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.


Councillor Jefferies stated that back in July there was a full review of the service by an outside Consultant. Some of the suggested improvements have been implemented already. There is now a Waste Board which relevant Officers sit on. There have been changes to how missed bins and complaints are recorded. There is now a health and safety representative on site for workers to raise issues with and additional training has been put in place. Improvements have been made to the depot and to the working conditions so that workers feel valued. Councillor Jefferies estimated that the full findings of the review will be made available by the beginning of next year and he stated that has only seen parts of the report as some of it was redacted due to employment reasons.


The Chair queried if a small food bin is being introduced.


Councillor Jefferies clarified that is one of the changes they are looking introduce which will be a small caddy for people to put in their kitchens for food waste which can then be emptied into a large lockable food waste bin stored outside. This will be introduced gradually across the Borough.


Councillor Jefferies left the meeting.