Epping Forest District Council is taking action to help clear the backlog of missed waste and recycling collections by bringing in its own extra refuse crew and vehicles.
The councillor responsible for waste and recycling collection in Epping Forest District has told Biffa the service has to improve. Councillor Will Breare-Hall said: ‘This is very serious. The unacceptable level of missed bin collections, leading to the distress of many residents, is something we are working extremely hard to rectify. All available resources, from both the Council and Biffa, are being applied to achieve a resolution.’
Talks with Biffa
Councillor Breare-Hall, Council Leader Chris Whitbread and senior council officers held talks with Biffa on Wednesday 3 June. Councillor Breare-Hall said: ‘We wanted to know why the problems haven’t been resolved and what steps Biffa have identified for improvement. I am far from happy with the results and have authorised Council officers to hire in extra vehicles and crews from another contractor, to be directly managed by Council staff, to pick up those missed collections that have been outstanding for the longest time’.
Biffa’s brand new refuse vehicles have experienced serious technical problems since they entered into service in May, including an inability to compact waste whilst travelling at low speed and the failure of hoist mechanisms. These problems were compounded by the failure of Biffa’s new IT system, which should provide real time ‘in vehicle’ reporting capabilities and direct communication with both Biffa’s Management Team and the Council’s Customer Contact Centre. Failure to fix this has made it impossible to scope accurately the overall scale of the problem.
Councillor Breare-Hall said: ‘Biffa are putting considerable pressure on their vehicle and IT suppliers to fix these problems. On top of the technical issues, the vehicle crews need to familiarise themselves with the new rounds and adapt to their revised working arrangements.’
Extra freighters and staff
Biffa has drafted in five extra freighters and 30 agency staff each day to clear the backlog, whilst the permanent core vehicles and crews focus on the regular four day rounds. However, Councillor Breare-Hall says that, whilst the agency staff help, they are not a complete solution, as they lack local knowledge.
The Council’s own Waste Management staff have been working 7 days a week inspecting sites, speaking to residents and problem solving, whilst all the time maintaining constant communication with the contractor.
Councillor Breare-Hall paid tribute to their efforts, saying: ‘The Council’s own staff have worked incredibly hard over the last four weeks, in extremely difficult circumstances. They have faced considerable pressure and are dealing with a high number of very frustrated and, on occasion, abusive members of the public, with great professionalism. The Customer Contact Service at the Civic Offices has dealt with in excess of 9000 telephone enquiries and 3000 emails. Whilst the situation is clearly not acceptable, we are applying all our resources to get through this difficult period.’
Lessons to be learnt
Councillor Breare-Hall added: ‘I fully understand the justifiable complaints from residents, some of whom have not had collections for several weeks. Clearly lessons need to be learnt and if there have been contractual failures, these will be addressed. I will be asking the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to undertake a full review of the implementation of the new four day week service. In the meantime, I want to apologise again for the disruption, thank everyone for their forbearance and promise to keep you advised of how the situation develops.’