Message from East Hampshire District Council Leader Cllr Richard Millard and Chief Executive Gill Kneller
The difficulties we are experiencing with our waste collection are continuing and we know that this is impacting on you, our residents. We are keen to be open and transparent about the challenges we and our supplier are facing, and to let you know what we are doing to manage the situation. We are very sorry for what is happening, and we want to reassure you that everything possible is being done to bring the service back to the standard we expect.
What has gone wrong?
The fundamental issue is a shortage of personnel qualified to safely drive and load the refuse collection vehicles. This is a national challenge and not specific to East Hampshire. Almost all councils are facing the same issue to a greater or lesser extent. Put simply, Norse South East (NSE), which provides the service, doesn’t have enough crews to collect waste, recycling, garden waste and kerbside glass currently. We are therefore making the best use of the crews we do have by prioritising what they collect. General waste is the highest priority due to the potential health hazards associated with non-collection, followed by recycling, garden waste and glass, in that order. We have put in place both immediate solutions and medium to long term mitigations to address the staff shortages for the future.
What are we doing in the short term?
Driver pay has been raised by approximately 22% and a cash incentive is now being offered to new starters. Loaders will be offered an 11% pay rise. The improvements in pay and incentives will ensure that we are competitive in a fast-moving labour market and help to prevent us losing even more drivers. We have decided to prioritise waste, recycling and garden waste as our key services. We have taken the difficult decision to suspend glass collection for a month. This will allow time for us to recruit more staff with the incentivised packages now being offered. Setting a timescale of one month allows us to give residents some clarity. We know this is not a solution, but it is the best use of our limited resources at the moment. We will monitor the staffing situation and, hopefully, will lift the suspension after one month. If we can’t, we will let you know in good time.
How to dispose of your glass during the suspension
Glass will not be collected from the kerbside for at least the next month. Instead, available crews will concentrate on our bottle banks. We are monitoring these closely and liaising with NSE to ensure they are emptied as quickly as possible. We recently removed some old bottle banks from various locations. This decision is being temporarily reversed and eight of the old banks will be returned to key locations. These locations will be communicated to residents separately. Council officers will regularly check bottle bank sites to ensure they are emptied, the sites are kept tidy and any risks are removed.
What are we doing in the long term?
The Leaders of East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) and Havant Borough Council (HBC) have agreed to ask officers to investigate an expedited exit from the current contractual arrangement, which sees HBC responsible for EHDC’s waste collection services. We are in discussion with HBC and NSE to finalise governance and commercial arrangements to enable this to happen quickly. This move will ensure that EHDC returns to a direct relationship with the supplier with control over our own contract. This process, combined with the short-term measures mentioned earlier, will mitigate the current issues and allow the service to be future proofed.
The green waste service extension is ready to be launched. The vehicle is procured, the bins are ready to distribute from Penns Place, in Petersfield. The issue, again, is driver and crew capacity. The council is currently making plans to distribute the new bins to new licence holders using internal resources. This will be communicated to residents shortly.
Thank you for your patience
To conclude, the situation is frustrating, challenging and needs to be sorted. The Leader and the Chief Executive are both committed to driving a solution that is not just a temporary sticking plaster but a complete change. This cannot happen overnight, but we will keep you informed of progress.
Thank you for your patience, we will make sure your service is returned to the standards you expect, and we will improve our communication, so you always know what is happening.
Cllr Richard Millard, EHDC Leader
Gill Kneller, EHDC Chief Executive