The Chair explained that the purpose of the
meeting was to listen to the reasons why the disruption to the Waste Collection
Service occurred in December 2022, and to try and find a way forward to resolve
the issues impacting the service.
Eifion Evans, Chief Executive thanked the
Chair and the Committee for their patience in allowing officers to focus on the
budget before arranging today’s meeting. It was acknowledged there had been a
disruption to the service in December 2022, which created a sense of
disagreement among the public. The Waste Collection Service provided an
excellent service, and the staff were praised for their willingness to continue
to collect waste during the Covid-19 outbreak. Several factors contributed to
the disruption in December 2022 and the context of what happened would be
outlined in due course along with several options to try and resolve the
issues, but it was important to note that staff were not at fault. Officers
have been challenged consistently by elected members, who have been challenged
by members of the public regarding the matter and several discussions have
taken place between officers and political party leaders.
In terms of the Waste Collection Service,
approximately 28 staff were employed at each of the 2 operational depots, and
due to the nature of their contracts, a maximum of 4 members of staff would be
allowed to be on leave at any one time, not taking staff sickness into account.
As Bank and ‘company’ holidays (three fixed leave days between Christmas and
New Year) were currently worked on a voluntary overtime basis, officers had been unable to
adequately cover the service during these periods. Historically, there was
greater resilience in the service but in the past decade, there had been a loss
of £72 million of core funding from the Welsh Government (WG) and 750 jobs
across Council services. When there were no issues, the service ran effectively
and efficiently with a very high level of reliability, but the ability to respond
to emergencies proved challenging. Senior Officers emphasised continually that
unless an individual had the appropriate training, qualifications and
experience, a member of staff could not undertake a role such as driving or
loading a Refuse Collection Vehicle (RCV).
Barry Rees, Corporate Director explained
that three separate episodes accounted for the disruption in December 2022:
severe weather, where officers prioritised the
gritting as opposed to the waste collection in order to ensure the health and
safety of the public. At the same time, support was provided to Welsh Water to
distribute water during the water outage, particularly in the south of the
during Christmas/ New Year's were impacted due to the
nature of contracts in place and 3 fixed leave days to which staff were
entitled, resulting in staff shortage.
third episode of disruption was again due to the impact of the severe weather.
Although it was possible to plan for poor
weather, it was not possible to foresee when it would happen, as opposed to
bank holidays. It was vital to remember that no one was in danger when the
waste collection was disrupted, but the difficulties and the inconvenience to
Ceredigion’s residents were acknowledged.
Lead Officer, Highways and Environmental Services outlined the following:
Key Matters to Explore
Waste Collection Budget
Household Waste Sites
· Work Currently in
· Potential Future
Explore opportunities for digital
Review of operational staff
contracts (9-12 months)
of alternative delivery options
resource and budgetary pressures on the service
budget provision for waste collection
Rhodri Llwyd explained that some measures were
already in place, and some would take longer to achieve, but incremental
changes within could improve the service’s provision. Staff sickness and
emergencies such as extreme weather would remain, but hopefully, the measures
proposed would on the whole create a more consistent
and resilient service.
Members were provided with the opportunity
to ask questions which were answered by officers in attendance. The main points
raised were as follows:
staff had permanent contracts and could volunteer to work on weekends and bank
holidays. Changing contracts would need to be considered corporately, would
take up to 12 months and would need to follow a formal consultation process. A
change in contracts such as a rolling shift pattern would allow managers
greater flexibility to ensure there was adequate staffing during difficult
collection of trade waste was a broad issue and businesses have received a
letter to explain that they have a legal duty to deal with their waste
correctly. At present, RCVs had cameras to track the routes and the collection
of waste but further exploration and investment in technology would enable
closer monitoring of trade waste, which would benefit other Council services
response to suggestions to cancel collections over the Christmas period, the
service would prefer to avoid this as it would lead to problems in the
following weeks. Since Covid-19, the volume of waste collected had increased by
10%-15% and the nature of the waste varied weekly and by route.
with the public was reviewed regularly and it was acknowledged that clearer
communication related to collections and disruptions could be investigated.
Details were available via Clic (Customer Service
Centre) and the authority was the first in Wales to
share detailed updates online. With the development of ‘My Account’, residents
would be able to receive updates in a variety of ways.
were encouraged to undertake HGV licence courses continually. Some staff
employed as loaders and who had the required training/ qualifications were able
to step up when required to drive HGVs including RCVs. Due to legal compliance
considerations and the technology involved, involving individuals who were
unfamiliar with the work would be dangerous.
Blueprint for waste collection was deemed ineffective for rural areas and the
previous administration had raised concerns that flexibility was required to
provide a cost-efficient service to the county.
service had trialled an electric RCV and it had worked
well but there were concerns should all vehicles use green energy given the
inadequate grid capacity within the county. A combination of green hydrogen and
electrical systems was deemed more suitable and needed to be considered by WG
service was commended for their professionalism in ensuring the fleet was fit
for purpose and complied with legislation, for the safety of the workforce and
there was an adequate supply of staff, the service ran smoothly, but it proved
challenging during emergencies hence the disruptions. To create more resilience
by increasing capacity, further funding would be required.
provision of waste transfer stations at Penrhos was
being considered corporately. In addition, discussions need to be undertaken
with Household Waste Sites and private recycling sites to ask whether they
would consider placing skips on sites to collect recycling bags.
brought forward to Saturday before a Bank Holiday Monday was favoured and would
continue to be trialled.
was unloaded at Lampeter and Beulah following the procurement of new Transfer
impose restrictions on the number of black bags per household, a political
decision would be required following consultation. This would hopefully
encourage more recycling.
Eifion Evans thanked the Committee again for
their patience in dealing with the matter. Several exciting and innovative
ideas had been suggested and the aim was to provide a consistent service, which
would be measured particularly during bank holidays and the Christmas period.
Officers and elected members were praised for their maturity during
discussions. There was a desire by all to solve the challenges acknowledged in
Henson, Cabinet Member noted that the service’s good work was acknowledged
nationally, as they were considered in the top 5 recyclers in Wales. The
current fleet was working well, but investment was required to ensure the
service ran efficiently. He expressed his thanks to the officers in attendance
and the front-line staff for their work and hopefully with the introduction of
20mph speed limits, a safer working environment would be created.
The Chair stated
that today’s meeting had been beneficial and explained that the Committee would
be happy to discuss further should the need arise. He suggested that staff were
often aware of problems along with the solutions, therefore it was important to
allow staff the opportunity to share their views.
Rhodri Llwyd also
expressed his thanks to all present, and for the Committee’s willingness to
scrutinise in moving forward. From a staffing perspective, officers held
‘toolbox talks’ with staff regularly to discuss and share information and ’On
the Job’, an information leaflet was circulated to staff to update them on any
corporate and health and safety developments.
by the Committee Members, it was agreed to note the response to the report and
make appropriate recommendations to Cabinet if deemed necessary.