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Plan four-day week trial for bin collectors in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire

Bin collectors in South Cambridgeshire could begin a four-day work week trial in the summer.

South Cambridgeshire District Council has set out plans for the trial which will mean bin collections consolidated to between Tuesday and Friday.

South Cambridgeshire District Council's headquarters in Cambourne Picture: LDRS
South Cambridgeshire District Council's headquarters in Cambourne Picture: LDRS

A four day week trial was launched for the authority’s desk based-staff in January, under which they work fewer hours for the same pay.

The trial was introduced to see if it will help the district council to attract staff to work at the authority and to help keep the current staff working there.

The council has previously reported that early results from the trial showed many staff felt less stressed.

A report to the district council’s scrutiny and overview committee meeting on Tuesday (April 25) said a “route optimisation exercise” had shown it was possible for the authority to “deliver efficiencies and improvements” by consolidating waste collections into four days.

Under the plans waste will be collected Tuesday to Friday. The waste collectors will be asked to work an extra 30 minutes each of the four days they work.

The meeting heard that it was believed the whole day back would compensate for this additional work.

The district council said two additional vehicles would also be needed to make the trial work.

A report to the committee said: “Consolidating routes prior to the introduction of national legislation to eliminate avoidable waste and increase recycling rates will improve operational effectiveness and productivity, by re-balancing existing collection rounds.

“It will enable the service to better accommodate past growth and future proof waste collections to future growth.

“The cessation of Monday waste collections would contribute to an increase in recycling rates due to less confusion for residents when collections coincide with Bank Holidays.

“A reduction in overtime incurred by Bank Holiday catch-up work will result in less staff commutes to work and shorter vehicle journeys.

“A four day collection service would increase staff rest days and test whether this increases staff wellbeing and reduces sickness levels and injuries by consolidating the number of days staff commute and work.

“It should increase recruitment and retention rates and reduce the reliance on agency staff to operate the service.”

Some councillors raised concerns that asking the waste collectors to work longer days could increase the risk of injuries.

Cllr Libby Earle (Lib Dem, Sawston) asked if the district council had considered the impact on staff of an increased workload over the four days and the potential for more complexity.

One of the officers added that the workload for staff would not increase. They added that there were occasions when the staff ended up working later than normal, and said they believed the additional day of rest would “more than compensate” for the extra 30 minutes a day.

Cllr Henry Batchelor (Lib Dem, Linton), the lead cabinet member for environmental services and licensing, said the growth of the area had been taken into account and built into the proposals.

Cllr Stephen Drew (Lib Dem, Cambourne) asked whether the ‘fairness’ of asking the waste collectors to work longer had been considered, when the same was not being asked of the desk-based staff.

An officer explained that it was considered “acceptable” for the two slightly different trials to run, as the purpose of the trials was to “test different models”.

They said if the district council decided to make a four day week permanent, then it would have to look at “equalising the arrangements” between desk based staff and the waste collectors.

The district council’s cabinet will need to approve the three month trial of the four day week for bin collectors before it can go ahead as planned in July.

As the waste service is shared with Cambridge City Council, it will also need to give its approval for the trial to go ahead.

While the office based staff trial is planned to be “cost neutral”, additional costs would be faced in the waste collection trial due to the need for more vehicles.

The report said it was estimated it would cost £132,000 in the first year, and £207,000 in the second year if the change was made permanent. The cost of the trial is expected to cost £33,000 per council.

A report on the findings from the office staff four day week trial, and the waste collection trial are expected to be presented to cabinet in autumn this year.

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