Agenda item

Environmental Services Q1 Performance Report


CT noted the Q1 report was slightly out of date, and Q2 was closer to what was happening on the ground. Waste service operations maintained collections during COVID lockdown restrictions despite the low availability of LGV drivers. CT advised many LGV drivers had taken early retirement or left for local hauliers with significant salary increases, citing Waitrose wages of £53,000 versus £28,000 at Dacorum. It was also difficult to source agency drivers because their costs were high. CT stated some neighbouring authorities had suspended services, but Dacorum had maintained service thus far.

With regards to the Splash Park, there was a delay opening the park, as it required additional work. CT stated that an online booking system was introduced which worked well, with good feedback received from the public. Additionally, several 2- to 3-year-old trees were planted in Gadebridge Park. The Oak moth disease remains prevalent in the Borough, with spraying taking place to remedy this.

On educational awareness, CT reported that the situation was normal with some virtual school talks taking place, and food waste collections had been rolled out in classrooms. A compost giveaway had taken place, with 10 tonnes given away to 400 residents in 90 minutes. All flats had been visited to ensure they could recycle, and 90 1,100 litre bins had been given to residents in flats.

In terms of performance indicators, CT stated there was some concern around the missed bin collections, which was mainly due to the amount of agency staff employed and parked cars blocking roads due to more residents working from home. CT expected this number would come down as people returned to work.

JB appreciated that COVID had exacerbated the missed bin locations, and questioned the lack of technology in the cab, as this had been mentioned a few times, asking why the technology was not yet fitted to the cabs. CT replied that the agency staff were unfamiliar with the system and the in-cab technology is only fitted to the council’s vehicles and not those hired in to cope with the additional workload. JB understood that the collection fleet was now complete, and asked whether this was a current issue or a historical one. CT confirmed this was historical in Q1.

RB returned to the subject of the high wages with the LGV drivers. CT advised that the local hauliers were implementing several incentives, including paying back the handcuff clauses imposed on the council workers. Local hauliers were able to offer incentives that the Council could not, but Cabinet had confirmed a loyalty bonus package could be implemented, which CT would investigate.

AE commended Joanna Boyd for her action and stated it was gratifying to see the amount of engagement. AE felt the Street Champion programme was seeing a new lease of life and noted Dacorum was doing better than neighbouring authorities. In the report, AE noted that grass cutting had been a struggle due to good growing conditions, but also that the growing conditions for 3-year-old trees were bad and asked how these 2 could be reconciled. CT responded that there were 20 vacancies over the summer, which caused issues with the grass cutting schedule.

AE asked what the reasons were for the shortage of labour. CT stated some people were on furlough last year, and happy to be at home on 80% pay. An apprentice programme was being investigated, as was the recruitment of prisoners due to be released. CT confirmed terms and conditions were being reviewed. JB stated that Hacro, a charity supporting prisoners, may be able to support this initiative.

MR asked a question regarding overhanging trees. There were many trees in Bennetts End which had grown enormously, which residents had to deal with even though they were public trees. MR asked how many reports had been received from this area and how residents could be helped with overhanging trees. CT agreed it had been a difficult year for overhanging trees and safety numbers were high. JB commented that a number of the public trees belonged to the County, not Dacorum. CT stated that they provided residents with suitable advice, and added 2 tree contractors had been engaged, who were struggling with the amount of work. There was a limit to the number of tree contractors.

GSt thanked CT for dealing with staff shortages. With regards to collections from congested streets, GSt understood there were narrow fire engines in Tring and asked whether the regular use of smaller vehicles had been considered. CT confirmed several smaller vehicles had been bought. The drivers for these smaller vehicles would still require LGV tests.

GSi asked for the staff sickness status. CT noted it wasn’t particularly high, but there was a number of vacancies due to staff retiring. There had been several COVID and self-isolation cases, and cases where crews had been pinged.

SW noted that the service in Tring Central had been extraordinary and commended the teams, in particular Shaun Ross who had helped with a historical fly tipping issue. SW noted that having some smaller vehicles was welcomed. On the subject of mixed recycling vehicles, SW asked whether these were being investigated further, as particular vehicles were required. CT stated he would pass on SW’s thanks. With regards to the historic problems of smaller roads, more small vehicles with rear-steer had been purchased. CT confirmed a route optimisation exercise would be undertaken over the Christmas period to better understand the fleet requirements. CT confirmed that all vehicles were capable of carrying mixed recycling.

NT asked CT to share the list of narrow roads with ward councillors to ensure a good collection service. NT asked what percentage of collection staff were non-UK nationals. CT responded that formerly 8 or 9 out of 35 drivers were Eastern European but now only 1 Polish driver remaining, as a direct result of the change of government rules, with 2 or 3 drivers leaving since Brexit.

PH asked where weed spraying took place and where it was considered to be necessary. CT confirmed this took place, but outsourced to another company. CT offered to share the round sheets with PH.

JB asked if the Arboretum being planned in Gadebridge Park would have any impact on the other plans for the park. CT confirmed it would not impact on or conflict with the Gade River project.

JB thanked CT for the report and commended the efforts that the crews were making in difficult circumstances. The report was noted and welcomed.

Supporting documents: