At its meeting on 3rd September, 2018, the Board requested an update in respect of the Waste Collection Service. This was following the issues that had led to problems with the collection of residents’ bins across the District. Members had asked that the Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing and Environment Services and Head of Environmental Services be invited to the meeting to discuss the issues highlighted. It was noted that the Portfolio Holder had sent her apologies due to illness and that the Head of Service was on annual leave, with the Environmental Services Manager attending in his absence.
The Executive Director of Finance and Resources provided the Board with an overview of the Waste Collection Services. The Waste Collection Team provided a service to every household in the District on a two week cycle of four day working from Tuesday to Friday. Members suggested that the waste service look at working on a five working day basis and the Environmental Services Manager stated that this would be incorporated in a revised business plan which would come forward to Members in due course.
In addition, a Garden Waste Service was provided, for which a charge was made, that operated across part of the District in conjunction with the grey bin service, and the other part of the district in conjunction with the green bin service. The Depot also provided a commercial waste service and a commercial tanker service for Cesspool emptying that generated an income for the Council. This had experienced strong growth in the last three years.
The resources to provide the services were as follows:
To provide the service 44 staff were required on a day to day basis, leaving seven staff every day to cover any annual leave and sickness.
Members were informed that in 2017/18, the Council spent £93,641 on agency staff to support the service due to staff sickness. Between April to June 2018/19, it was identified that there was approximately £90,000 expenditure on agency staff across Bromsgrove and Redditch Councils, part of this was to cover vacancies and long term sickness. This meant that ten to twelve agency staff were required on a daily basis across the joint Environmental Services Waste Team. This had been discussed as a concern with the Portfolio Holder, and it was agreed that the Council would review how it delivered the service in order to assess what was achievable with the current resources.
As part of reviewing the service, temporary staff were recruited to support the growth in the service area, together with route optimisation data and staff finishing times which would be used to determine how the service should be delivered. This would then form part of the business case for the service review which was planned. Further detail in respect of these areas was provided within the written report.
Members outlined the problems that had been raised with them by residents in respect of missed bin collections in their wards. The issues had first been reported on 17th August, 2018, and some of the residents’ bins had not been collected for a further two weeks. Members asked what areas in the District had been a priority for the missed bins to be collected. The Environmental Services Manager explained that the areas where prioritised were there would be minimal disruption to other parts of the service, such as the Town Centre.
The Board commented on the lack of communication leading up to the disruption and that other areas within the Council had not been informed of the issues. It was felt that there had been no robust action in place in order to inform residents appropriately. The Board was advised that the reason for this was that the senior manager was on holiday at the time. Members felt that this was a failure on a corporate level and suggested the concerns should have been addressed at full Council. The Executive Director of Finance and Resources informed the Board that the Corporate Management Team acknowledged that communication with residents and services was required and that the level of communication was not acceptable.
Members raised concerns in relation to agency staff being discharged and felt that this was not the appropriate decision to be made. The Executive Director of Finance and Resources stated it was deemed that this was a prudent course of action to take at the time as the sickness level of staff which followed was not expected. The Environmental Services Manager clarified that some agency staff had been recruited to permanent posts and that the number of staff employed had therefore not reduced.
Members explained that reports in the media had stated that the disruption was related to agency staff being released; following an over spend on the budget and not due to sickness. The Environmental Services Manger emphasised that the significant issues leading to the disruption of missed bin collections were due to high levels of staff on leave and sickness and this had been communicated to the press. It was confirmed that the sickness was due to staff having a virus and not stress related. Members discussed whether the nature of sickness should be mentioned in the report. It was confirmed that this was acceptable on a general basis as the report did not include details of individual members of staff.
Members further stated that the media mentioned that the housing growth in the District had also impacted on the disruption of the Waste Collection Services and sought clarity in relation to this. Members were informed that due to growth of the number of properties in the District, over recent years and in the future; this would inevitably have an impact on the Waste Collection Services in the long term.
It was recognised that there were challenges around capacity and resources as the staffing in its current form was not sufficient to deliver the service requirements in the long term. The Council recognised the key areas of development for the future. The Board was further informed that a business plan would be devised in order to improve the Waste Collection Services, in particular, reviewing the resources and the vehicles in order to address the issues that had been identified going forward. Members also discussed and requested that a review of the faulty/damaged and lost bins be carried out, to include the financial implications of this.
The Board commented on the openness and transparent approach adopted by officers and thanked them for this. The Board was informed that full and frank discussions had taken place with staff following the disruption and staff had worked hard to avoid further disruptions. The Environmental Services Manager stated that the team moral was low due to the recent events and adverse publicity. However, staff were committed to delivering a high standard of service nonetheless.
The Board noted that the Leader and Deputy Leader had sent their apologies for this meeting; however they would be attending the next meeting of the Board in respect of a number of other items.
It was suggested by the Vice Chairman and agreed by the Board that the Corporate Performance Working Group undertake a full investigation in respect of the issues with the Waste Collection Services. Members were informed that the Head of Environmental Services had been invited to attend the next meeting of the Working Group and the findings of this would be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Board and subsequently to Cabinet, if necessary, in due course.
Furthermore, the Board was reminded that the Corporate Performance Working Group was responsible for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the Measures Dashboard and would be looking at the sickness levels in more detail. A report of any findings would again be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for its consideration. The Chairman of the Corporate Performance Working Group stated that one of the Measures for the Waste Services appeared not to have been updated since 2017 and this would also be reviewed.
Following further discussions Members were assured that no discussions had taking place to outsource the services. In conclusion, Members were invited to visit the depot to see the ongoing work of the operatives. It was noted that a number of Members had already visited and their support had been greatly appreciated by the staff.
RESOLVEDthat the Waste Collection Service update report be noted.