East Hampshire’s waste collection service is at risk of a “complete service collapse” unless emergency measures to fix a recruitment crisis are successful, the district council has warned.
East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) instructed its waste contractor Norse SE to increase driver pay for the second time in just over a month last Thursday – and just a day later the authority confirmed kerbside glass collections will be suspended for another month from September 10.
But it has promised residents that if Norse SE can recruit additional staff, kerbside glass collections will be reinstated “as soon as possible”.
EHDC has also vowed “this will be the last time” kerbside glass collections are suspended – with many of the district’s bottle banks overflowing with excess glass waste.
A council spokesman said: “We initially took the decision to suspend it for a month because we wanted to prioritise collecting waste, recycling and garden waste during the ongoing national driver shortage.
“But despite a recruitment campaign for drivers and loaders, Norse SE needs more time to get its teams up to full capacity.”
The decision to give bin collectors a further pay rise was taken following a fast-tracked decision by EHDC leader Cllr Richard Millard.
It was agreed to increase the driver/supervisor hourly rate from £13.50 to £16, an 18.5 per cent increase, while the loader/administrator hourly rate will also increase from £11.10 to £12.50, up 12.6 per cent.
The extra cost must be met by EHDC, however, despite council papers blaming the “unacceptable” service failures on neighbouring Havant Borough Council (HBC).
Norse SE was launched in 2016 as a joint venture between Norfolk County Council-owned Norse and Havant Borough Council.
East Hampshire joined the partnership in July 2019, but announced in mid-August it had instructed officers to investigate an “expedited exit” from its collections contract as it struggles to complete rounds.
It also comes after East Hampshire formally agreed to end its 12-year partnership with Havant Borough Council in March.
The EHDC decision report states: “EHDC is experiencing severe service failures by HBC, the waste collection authority.
“Due to the geographic and demographic make-up of EHDC, the collection authority and their joint venture partner Norse SE experience significant difficulty recruiting and retaining staff to deliver the service in EHDC.
“Current vacancy levels and reliance on temporary agency staff have put this service at the point of critical failure without immediate action or any proposal for resolution.
“When challenged regarding recruitment and retention, Norse SE has cited the remuneration package to drivers/supervisors and loaders/administrators is insufficient to attract and retain staff.
“Norse SE has suggested an uplift to both driver/supervisor and loader/administrator rates in the EHDC area to attract new and retain current staff.”
The papers add: “Failure to address these issues urgently will result in further degradation of the service and a high risk of complete service collapse.”
The EHDC spokesman continued: “We are pulling out all the stops to ensure this service gets back on track as soon as possible.
“We are really sorry for the inconvenience this is causing and thank residents so much for their ongoing patience – we really are doing everything we possibly can to help Norse SE recruit.
“If you know anyone who would be interested in one of the jobs, then please tell them to apply.”