South Ribble on verge of suspending bin collections due to HGV driver shortage

Bin collections are at risk of being suspended in South Ribble because of a shortage of HGV drivers, warn Council bosses.

Friday, 6th August 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 6th August 2021, 10:37 am
South Ribble Borough Council says it is struggling to recruit new bin collection drivers due to a national shortage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit

The Council said it is struggling to recruit new drivers due to a national shortage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

In an open letter addressed to the Government, council leader Paul Foster says the shortage "is now at crisis point" and household bin collections in the borough have become "unsustainable".

"If swift action isn’t taken we face the real possibility of having to suspend waste collections," warned Coun Foster, "starting with garden waste collections".

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The letter, which has been sent to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, urges the Government to take "immediate action" to avoid the Council having to cut basic services.

The Council says cuts would begin with garden waste collections, which would be suspended until the driver shortage can be resolved.

Coun Foster said: "Household bin collections have become unsustainable due to the significant and rapidly deteriorating shortage of HGV drivers available to drive our refuse collection vehicles.

"Despite our best efforts with retaining and recruiting drivers, plugging gaps and exhausting the option of temporary and agency drivers, we are now on the verge of suspending garden waste collections.

"This is a completely unacceptable position where our residents are unfairly impacted as they are faced with losing their basic local services. We firmly believe the situation has been caused by the impacts of Brexit and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic."

The Secretary of State has been approached for comment.

You can read the full letter below...

South Ribble Borough Council demand Government take action on national HGV driver shortage

"We write openly to the Government to highlight our significant concerns over the well publicised national shortage of HGV drivers and how this is impacting on our ability to deliver waste collection services for our residents.

"Household bin collections have become unsustainable due to the significant and rapidly deteriorating shortage of HGV drivers available to drive our refuse collection vehicles.

"Despite our best efforts with retaining and recruiting drivers, plugging gaps and exhausting the option of temporary and agency drivers, we are on now at the verge of suspending garden waste collections.

"This is a completely unacceptable position where our residents are unfairly impacted as they are faced with losing their basic local services. We firmly believe the situation has been caused by the impacts of Brexit and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Several factors have exacerbated the shortage which is now at crisis point and critical supply chains are failing. Those factors include:

"COVID – During a typical year, 72,000 candidates train to become HGV drivers with 40,000 succeeding. The complete shutdown of vocational driving tests throughout much of last year resulted in the loss of over 30,000 test slots and only 15,000 were able to complete training successfully - a drop of 25,000 from the previous year.

"EU Exit - The uncertainty of Brexit and future rights to live and work in the UK forced many drivers to do the same. Again, the vast majority have not returned nor are they expected to. Many drivers returned to their country of origin during extended periods of lockdown and restricted travel. The vast majority have not yet returned.

"Retiring drivers - The average age of an HGV driver is 55, with less than 1% under the age of 25. Prolonged periods of inactivity have resulted in much of this aging workforce retiring early or finding employment in other, less demanding, sectors.

"IR35 tax legislation - The introduction of IR35 has resulted in agency labour withdrawing their services as low-profit margin logistics businesses (typically 2-3%) cannot sustain demands for £5-£6 per hour rate increases.

"For clarity, we welcome legislation that ensures fair and equal tax for all. However, Government must now recognise the repercussions of this, and the other issues mentioned and urgently intervene to help us to resolve the resulting crisis.

"Our waste collections staff have been working under extreme pressures due to the massive increase in household waste volumes over the last 18 months. This must be recognised by the Government by way of ensuring local authorities are adequately resourced to continue to meet the challenges in front of them.

"In these challenging and unprecedented times, we call upon the Government to urgently take immediate and positive action that is required to address and rectify the shortage of HGV drivers not only for the UK supply chain but also for maintaining household waste collections

"If swift action isn’t taken we face the real possibility of having to suspend waste collections – starting with garden waste collections, which would be the first of our services to stop in line with direction from the Government."