Staff from across local authority frontline services are being used to keep waste and recycling services going, as absence rates in some cases have reached 25%, according to the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC).
Cathy Cook, incoming Chair of LARAC said that its member authorities are experiencing different levels of disruption, and some are seeing absence rates as high as 25%.
She said this means that staff from other frontline services are in some instances being used to keep waste and recycling services going.
“The suspension of garden waste collections over the winter period by some councils is helping to provide resilience in these situations,” Ms Cook said, “however, some are monitoring absence levels this week and warning that other collections may have to be scaled back or suspended if the situation worsens.
“The worst affected are battling competition for HGV drivers from haulage firms and delivery companies particularly in busy transport corridors.
The situation seems to have worsened over the last fortnight and LARAC will be surveying its members this week to obtain up to date information on the impact on local councils
“The situation seems to have worsened over the last fortnight and LARAC will be surveying its members this week to obtain up to date information on the impact on local councils”
“Like other employers councils are affected by the rising numbers of staff having to isolate due to COVID-19,” an LGA spokesperson said. “While local authorities will do their best to protect the delivery of vital services including by redeployment, it is possible that access to some services may be reduced.”
The LGA said it wants to work with Government to address these issues to ensure councils can be resilient in supporting their communities through this wave of the Omicron variant.
“This includes prioritising council employees for lateral flow testing to ensure that they can continue to deliver the services people rely upon,” it says.
Sam Corp, Head of Regulation at the Environmental Services Association, the trade body representing the UK’s resource and waste management industry, says the waste sector is ‘highly resilient’ and has maintained a ‘good level of service on the whole throughout the pandemic’.
He says the ESA and its members have ‘anticipated and mitigated’ the risks to staffing posed by the new variant as much as possible, notwithstanding the operational challenges that continue to be posed by COVID-19.
On behalf of the industry, we would be grateful for residents’ patience and understanding while service operators catch up on any missed or delayed collections in the coming weeks
He said: “As anticipated, waste collection services in some areas are starting to see some staff shortages arising from the more-infectious Omicron COVID-19 variant.
“This means that bin collection services across the country may encounter some disruption and delays in the coming weeks, which could be exacerbated by higher-than-normal waste volumes after the Christmas Holidays.
“On behalf of the industry, we would be grateful for residents’ patience and understanding while service operators catch up on any missed or delayed collections in the coming weeks.”