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Festering bins left in Cambridgeshire streets for days after collection falls into chaos

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Uncollected bin bags have been left festering in the street by East Cambridgeshire District Council for several days and officers have not been able to say when waste crews will return to remove them.

The problems have arisen this week when multiple villages around Cambridge did not have their bins collected and the council has blamed a shortage of HGV drivers nationally along with the need to reconfigure collection routes due to “a growing population” in the district.

The council has asked residents to “bear with us as we work hard to resolve the situation” but has not provided any information about when bins will next be collected.

Bins left uncollected in East Cambridgeshire village. (57249394)
Bins left uncollected in East Cambridgeshire village. (57249394)

Villages affected include Bottisham, Cheveley, Fordham, Lode, Burwell, Reach, Swaffham Prior, Swaffham Bulbeck, Newmarket, Soham and parts of Newmarket, Littleport and Ely.

Residents have taken to social media to complain. One Burwell villager said: “I think everyone in our area who has not had bins collected should stop their direct debits for the length of times that bins remain on our doorsteps. Our council tax just goes to pay councillors and staff obscene salaries and pensions.”

Others have complained that the problems only started after the collection schedule was changed in March, which the council said was in order to: “improve service efficiency for residents and reduce carbon emissions”.

Another social media poster said: “All started after the change in days, which were supposed to be environmentally friendly. I suspect the trouble is that the council have no idea of the rounds and what has to be done by the people doing the work. The council should be made to familiarise themselves with the job, its operational needs, instead of “working” from home. Shall we stop paying Council tax?”

The council is advertising for more HGV drivers to join the waste team. However they are only offering £23,484 per annum whereas the average pay for HGV drivers in the UK is around £32,000.

A Bottisham resident commented: “Have you seen what salary they are offering the HVG drivers? It's very low - I am not surprised they can't hire anyone!”

The council did not reply to the Cambridge Independent’s question about when bins will be removed. Instead, a spokesperson for East Cambridgeshire District Council said: “At East Cambs Street Scene, our focus has always been to provide a high-quality service for residents with maximum benefit to the environment, and we accept we have recently fallen short of this.

Rubbish and recycling collection has been hit by delays.
Rubbish and recycling collection has been hit by delays.

“Since the beginning of the year, a number of factors, some expected and some unforeseen, have challenged our ability to deliver the first-class service on which we have historically prided ourselves on being able to deliver.

“We have had to make changes to our waste collection rounds to accommodate a growing population in East Cambridgeshire. This was necessary to reduce the risk of suspending services.

“The complex nature of this reconfiguration of our waste collection rounds and the fact that we cannot trial run changes meant some issues could only be ironed out once the crews have practically worked through the routes on the ground.

“While we now feel we have now addressed the vast majority of these issues, a continuing national shortage of HGV drivers and staff absence has impacted our overall performance levels and means we are still struggling to collect everyone’s waste on time each week.

“We want to assure residents that we are addressing this. Over the past few weeks, our focus has been on listening to feedback from crews and residents, making appropriate changes to rounds and supporting our crews which have been working hard to maintain levels of service. Alongside this, we have put in place measures to recruit new drivers and we are continuing our internal development programme to progress existing staff through their HGV training as quickly as possible, with our latest driver qualifying on Friday.

“Each week we collect waste from 40,000 households, deliver a free green waste collection service and have one of highest recycling rates in the country.

“We are using the same crews and have the same resources so we are confident we will be able to return to delivering the gold standard service residents have grown to expect and appreciate as soon as we possibly can.

“We would like to thank residents for their continued support and ask that they bear with us as we work hard to resolve the situation.”

To log a missed bin collection, visit: https://www.eastcambs.gov.uk

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