Hundreds of missed rubbish collections in East Devon have prompted the district council’s refuse and recycling boss to issue an apology.
A meeting this week heard Budleigh Salterton and Cranbrook were the ‘big losers’ due to a shortage of drivers – and even the authority’s leader had been affected.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) could split the £150,000 cost of potential pay rises with its contractor to help solve the issues.
Its cabinet was told on Wednesday that some 460 collections had been missed in recent weeks – with those on Friday a particular problem.
Service are now back on schedule, according to the council.
The meeting heard that contractor Suez had continually been eight drivers short.
This was blames on existing pay rates seeing drivers move across the border to Somerset – where they could receive £11.75 per hour, rather than £9.94 in East Devon.
Next month’s cabinet meeting is due to receive a report on how to solve the problems of driver retention and the need to increase their pay in the Suez contract.
Budleigh and Raleigh ward member Councillor Tom Wright, who sits on the Recycling and Waste Partnership Board, raised the concerns and said: “The last three Fridays in Budleigh, drivers have not turned up for a number of rounds.
“Sometimes they are collected on Saturday, sometimes on Monday, but what annoys the residents is the lack of information to them. We are failing on one of our major core services.”
EDDC leader Cllr Ben Ingham, who represents Woodbury and Lympstone, said that, a fortnight ago, his Friday rubbish collection was missed and he had to wait a week for it to be taken.
Cllr Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for the environment, told colleagues: “I do apologise to the residents having collections not collected on the same day.
“Fridays have been the big problem with Budleigh Salterton and Cranbrook the big losers.
“The last three weeks it has been collected on the Saturday and then on the Monday.
“This week, I can confirm we are back up to schedule and this week we can do all the collections on Friday.
“It is unfortunate that 460 collections were missed, and most were picked up the next day, but that is just two per cent of collections in a week.
“There is a shortage of drivers as they can get better pay elsewhere, and we will sort that out in April.”
John Golding, EDDC’s strategic lead for housing, health and environment, said that, while driver pay is a matter for Suez, an impact on a public service means discussions are taking place.
The meeting heard that Suez currently pays £9.94-an-hour, while the top rate for drivers £13/hour and the market average £11.50.
Councillors were told the Suez Somerset contract would pay £11.75-an-hour.
A revised driver rate of £11.24 would result in a £150,000 annual increase in costs – but EDDC and Suez have indicated a 50/50 split is possible.
Cllr Paul Hayward said residents in the Yarty ward, where collections normally take place on a Monday or Tuesday, had experienced the same issues, adding: “This is an issue across the region and an endemic problem.”