Please find the joint statement below from Leader of the Council Jeremy Kite and Steve Brown, Cabinet Member for Waste & Environment:
“We thought it might be helpful to provide a further update on the pressures being faced by waste collection services across the region which are certainly causing their fair share of problems here in Dartford.
“You may have seen media reports that some councils have cut, withdrawn or halted some services altogether. We have taken practical steps to minimise the chance of that happening in Dartford but there’s no doubt that the crews continue to work under great pressure.
“There’s a national shortage of HGV drivers. Some say it’s a result of Brexit whilst others blame a surge of demand from the home delivery and transport sectors as the economy gets back on its feet. Whatever the cause, it means that skilled drivers are in short supply.
“The problem in the waste collection sector is further impacted since crews are required to work in close proximity to each other and have been susceptible to requirements to self-isolate.
“The Government has instituted some changes to both the training requirements for HGV drivers and the Covid provisions but the health of waste collection crews continues to be a priority and rightly so. Our crews are full-time staff but when we are impacted by illness, self-isolation or vacancy it is almost impossible to secure agency or replacement staff.
“Whilst our services are operating better than many councils – and of course our scheduled waste service is one of the few to remain weekly – there’s no doubt that they are subject to delays.
“It’s particularly disappointing because our contractors, Urbaser, were achieving extremely high levels of service before these wider problems impacted. We are focussing our resource on the urgent business of household waste and recycling, meaning that some of the discretionary services like green waste may be hardest hit. We know that residents pay extra for this service and we’re sorry for the inconvenience it causes.
“Not all local authorities are responding in the same way and some are suspending services. We have taken the pragmatic step of providing additional financial resources to ensure we can recruit and retain drivers. DBC is a financially well managed council and we are in a position to respond to such an issue. The crews work hard, do a difficult job and face huge challenges working in urban areas and should be properly rewarded.
“The service is also working flexibly every day to maximise the resources and staff it has available. We have seen at first hand that they are doing everything they can to provide the best possible service.
“Finally, we thought hard before including these final words in a general update but concluded that you have a right to know that in one or two cases waste crews have been subjected to abuse and criticism as they go about their rounds.
“Large parts of the country are tackling these same capacity issues and however frustrating the situation may be, the hard working men and women who collect waste are some of the often unsung heroes of our community.
“They are not among those of us returning to their workplace following the pandemic – they are among the host of keyworkers in health, retail, education, transport, utilities and a host of other professions who delivered for us every day.
“Dartford is a great community packed with generosity and goodwill and I know that you will join with me in thanking them for the difficult job they do.
“We’re sorry for the inconvenience that this current situation is causing but please be assured DBC is working hard to tackle it.”
Jeremy Kite, Leader of the Council
Steve Brown, Cabinet Member for Waste & Environment