Driver shortage leads to Edinburgh bin collection backlog

Supervisors with HGV licences have been ordered on to streets to help clear waste after staff shortage causes rubbish to pile up. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Supervisors with HGV licences have been ordered on to streets to help clear waste after staff shortage causes rubbish to pile up. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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BOSSES have been drafted back on the bins to fill a shortage of lorry drivers and beat a backlog in waste collections.

Supervisors with HGV licences were ordered onto the roads this week as delays to collections mounted, while council chiefs also increased the hourly rate on offer to attract agency staff to fill the gaps. At the start of the week, the council was ten drivers short due to what it says are ongoing problems in attracting HGV drivers. That resulted in knock-on delays including garden waste uplifts falling three days behind schedule and hold-ups of between one and two days in some food and glass collections across the city.

Last night the city council said it expected to have all posts filled by the beginning of next week and for the service to be back up to date by Sunday.

A council spokeswoman said: “An unexpected shortage of agency drivers has resulted in a reduction in waste collections made in some areas recently – we apologise for any inconvenience caused to residents.

“We have been working with our recruitment agency and will have successfully filled all vacant positions by the beginning of next week.

“In addition, we have temporarily moved some drivers from our cleansing team in the interim.

“We are also carrying out additional weekend collections to reduce the delay.”

Tory environment spokesman Nick Cook labelled it the “latest saga” in a service “lurching from crisis to crisis“ and losing the trust of residents.

He added: “It is becoming clear that the council’s 65-point crisis plan to tackle the problems in waste and cleansing services has not led to the fundamental improvements in service needed.”

He said services including street cleaning and weeding remained well below the standard taxpayers should reasonably expect.

“These latest developments again suggest that if the council cannot itself consistently deliver a quality service, they should put political ideology aside and enlist the services of those who can,” added Cllr Cook.

The action to address the driver shortage problem included increasing the advertised hourly rate offered to agency drivers with ads posted on social media.

Agency posts were previously advertised at £16,850 – the start of grade four in the council’s pay structure.

Now the same jobs are advertised at £16,850 to £19,536 – ranging from the bottom to the top of grade four – so experienced candidates can be paid more.

In a briefing note to councillors, officials said at the start of this week they were short of eight drivers at the Russell Road depot and two at Seafield.

The council normally budgets for 109 drivers, including cover. All the driver vacancies are on kerbside services.

The note said a recent recruitment exercise had resulted in ten drivers being appointed, but a mix of both agency and permanent staff had since left to work elsewhere.

“Our agency provider is assisting in trying to source drivers but has so far been unable to cover all vacancies.”

The note pointed out the shortage was not just an Edinburgh problem and other local authorities are experiencing similar difficulties.

“Both the public and private sectors are citing issues in securing and retaining HGV 
drivers.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com