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Council leader says it is "crucial" to separate the issues with FCC Environment from the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers

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Council leader says it is "crucial" to separate the issues with FCC Environment from the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers

The Leader of South Hams District Council's Executive, Cllr Judy Pearce, has said it is "crucial that we separate the issues that FCC Environment had with the roll out of the new services, from the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers" as the group of opposition councillors calls for SHDC to terminate FCC Environment's waste contract. 

As the situation surrounding the waste contract gets more political, Cllr Pearce released a statement as Leader of the Executive alongside a statement released by SHDC's Deputy Chief Executive on behalf of the council.

The opposition group posted their statement (in full below) to social media on Monday afternoon, saying that South Hams residents have been "badly let down" and "you have every right to be angry and frustrated". 
 
They say that they are planning to bring a motion to the full council meeting in September to "call for the termination of the contract with FCC, bringing the services back in house and working in partnership with more successful councils like Teignbridge". 
 
The statement says that the current situation, where the brown bins will not be collected for a month due to driver shortages nationally, is not being fixed because "if you pay poor wages when there’s a shortage of workers, you’re unlikely to fill any vacancies". 
 
They said: "In the meantime, we will be doing everything we can to support the frontline staff in delivering the best service they can. Throughout this fiasco we know it has not been easy for those emptying the bins or answering the phone to angry residents – we thank them for everything they have tried to do."

Cllr Judy Pearce said: “We know that everyone is extremely frustrated by the situation, as are we. We are extremely sorry for the disruption that this has caused, but we are doing everything we can to put get our services back on track. It is very easy when you are in opposition to make alternative suggestions, which on the face of it seem like sensible solutions.

"But I would like the public to know that as the leading members of South Hams District Council, the Executive and I have done everything we can to seek a rapid resolution to this problem. Unfortunately certain factors have conspired against us, especially the timing of the national driver shortage, which has compounded the issues we were already experiencing.

“It is crucial that we separate the issues that FCC Environment had with the roll out of the new services, from the national shortage of LGV and HGV drivers. We know that there have been issues with the new service, but the reason for suspending garden waste has nothing to do with the roll out of the new service.

"The Road Hauliers Association estimates that there is a national shortfall of approx. 100,000 drivers. Therefore, like many of our neighbouring authorities, FCC Environment are putting the statutory services, waste and recycling first, and suggesting we suspend garden waste for the time being.

“The Executive and I will continue to work closely with officers to put either resources or pressure where it is needed most. However, sadly there is no quick fix. We do not want to make a knee jerk decision about the long term provision of this service, which puts us in a worse situation.”

South Hams District Council’s Deputy Chief Executive added “It has been suggested that the solution is to terminate the contract. However it simply isn’t that straightforward. The council is absolutely committed to working with FCC to ensure that they deliver against all aspects of the contract and improve the service to our residents as quickly as possible.

“It has also been suggested to us that we look to our neighbouring authorities, however as there is a national shortage of drivers, we cannot ask neighbouring authorities for help as they too are having to suspend or reduce waste collection services. West Devon, East Devon, North Devon, Teignbridge, Torbay, Plymouth, Somerset and Bristol are all experiencing disruption to their services because of this issue.

“I want to thank you for your patience, again I want to extend my apologies to you for the failures in service that you are experiencing.”

Full statement from the opposition group:
 
As residents you are being badly let down by SHDC – you have every right to be angry and frustrated. Rather than admit their decision to outsource waste collection services has been a disaster, the leadership stubbornly try to make the proverbial ‘silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’ It was quite clear many months ago that the new outsourced recycling scheme was not fit for purpose. In June, the opposition group forced an extraordinary meeting, as the administration refused to debate the issue in public. We tried to put the contractor FCC on notice of termination of contract. Unfortunately, the majority administration voted this down, and instead procured a number of (empty) promises from FCC. It’s now the end of August and brown bin collections have been suspended for at least a month.
The latest excuse is lack of drivers. If you pay poor wages when there’s a shortage of workers, you’re unlikely to fill any vacancies.
We will be bringing a motion to full council in September. This will call for the termination of the contract with FCC, bringing the services back in house and working in partnership with more successful councils like Teignbridge.
In the meantime, we will be doing everything we can to support the frontline staff in delivering the best service they can. Throughout this fiasco we know it has not been easy for those emptying the bins or answering the phone to angry residents – we thank them for everything they have tried to do.
Things won’t be solved overnight but we shall continue to highlight incompetence and not be deflected. We are very sorry for the position we find ourselves in, and we will be doing everything to make the administration change their approach.
 
Opposition Group SHDC
Cllr Abbott, Cllr Birch, Cllr Brazil, Cllr Hodgson, Cllr Jackson, Cllr Kemp, Cllr Long, Cllr McKay, Cllr O’Callaghan, Cllr Pannell, Cllr Rose, Cllr Sweet & Cllr Thomas
 
We have contacted FCC Environment for a comment but we have not yet received a reply. We will update the story as soon as we hear from them. 

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