Looming bin strike fuels row about Brighton and Hove’s rubbish backlog

A former council leader has called for action from the top to deal with an impending bin lorry drivers’ strike and a backlog of missed rubbish and recycling collections.

Labour councillor Nancy Platts said that no one appeared to have a solution to the constant problems with missed bin collections in Brighton and Hove.

She told a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting that the same people were emailing her each week – and the same responses were coming back from the council’s rubbish team at Cityclean.

And now, industrial relations had broken down, she said, with bin lorry drivers voting to strike for two weeks from Tuesday 5 October.

Members of the GMB union were going on strike in a row over round changes and what the GMB branch secretary Mark Turner called an “unofficial programme of punishments and control”.

Councillor Platts said that the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw should be summoned to the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee’s next meeting in November to answer questions about the failures at Cityclean.

When the committee met on Tuesday (21 September) she said: “I’ve got some people who are coming back every week being told their rubbish and recycling is going to be collected and then it still doesn’t get collected.

“So we’re also breaking the promises that we’re making. We should only make a promise we’re going to do something if we really think we can keep it.

“When people come back week after week, I’ve seen officers in Cityclean giving up responding now. They don’t know what else to say.

“Somewhere there is a solution to this because every other city collects rubbish and recycling. When I go to other cities, I’m not seeing this problem.”

Councillor Platts said that she had sympathy with the Green administration, having dealt with the problems as council leader herself.

And she had sympathy with senior officials who were sometimes still responding to emails about missed collection late into the night.

When she was leader of the council, she asked senior officials to recruit an industrial relations officer to deal with the problems at Cityclean but the position had not been filled.

Former Brighton and Hove council leader Nancy Platts and chief executive Geoff Raw

Councillor Platts said: “I’ve physically walked around my ward with someone from Cityclean and the executive director. No one in any of the closes off Whitehawk Road had recycling collected.

“Even on my emails now, I’ve got emails saying the recycling hasn’t been collected for months.

“When I’m emailing, I’m told ‘we’re on top of everything now’. I don’t understand why I’m getting emails saying you’re on top of everything when I get emails from residents saying nothing is being collected.

“I walk down the street myself and see it overflowing. It’s all very well bringing reports to the committee but I’m not understanding what the solution is?”

She asked whether extra pay would solve the problem.

Rachel Chasseaud

The council’s assistant director for city environment Rachel Chasseaud said that the issues were a mix of long-term problems, being tackled through a modernisation programme, and unpredictable events which had “blighted” the improvements.

Cityclean still lacked a computer system, she said, and a major project was under way to rectify this – and the service also needed new vehicles.

The current ageing trucks were prone to breaking down and, as a result, teams ended up missing their rounds.

Significant unpredicted problems included the fire at the waste transfer station in Hollingdean in August 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic which has led to staff being off sick or self-isolating.

Mrs Chasseaud said that the council was struggling to recruit workers and that there was a national shortage of lorry drivers. Nationally, Veolia has 80 driver vacancies.

She said: “The last few months have been incredibly challenging. We’re not on top of it at all. There are missed collections in pockets across the whole city.

“There are residents who are getting very regular collections. Unfortunately, the big issue at the moment is the impact of the national labour shortages for HGV (heavy goods vehicle) drivers – but not just drivers.

“We’re finding it difficult to recruit to our street cleansing operatives and drivers as well. We’re struggling. The agencies are finding it difficult. That’s is really impacting at the moment. I appreciate people don’t necessarily want to hear that.”

Mark Turner

GMB branch secretary Mark Turner responded on Twitter to the comments made by Councillor Platts in the council chamber.

Mr Turner said that morale was low, adding that Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty and Councillor Amy Heley, who chairs the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, needed to start responding to his emails and intervene to resolve the dispute.

He said: “It’s about the failures by management and the administration on not following agreed procedures and policies, not supplying adequate equipment and removing professional drivers from their regular rounds with no justification.

“There is no leadership, no direction from the administration, no investment, no support of the dedicated workforce and a complete blame culture by the senior management.”

  1. Mike Beasley Reply

    Hold on , doesn’t Nancy belong to the same Union as Brother Turner ?

  2. Greens Out Reply

    Does anyone know what Geoff Raw ACTUALLY does? It doesn’t seem to be a lot.

    Probably why he’s Chief Exec.

    The Greens REALLY need to get control of this situation, among many many others. They cannot let that prehistoric oaf Turner run things and hold the town to ransom constantly.

    That said, the Greens are about as useful, and wanted, as used toilet roll.

    Gutless. Spineless. Brainless. USELESS

    • Some Guy Reply

      What exactly should the council (current Green or hypothetical replacement) do to rectify the problems?

      • Hove Guy Reply

        Resign!

        • Some Guy Reply

          “or hypothetical replacement”

    • Chaz. Reply

      He collects a very tasty salary of £188,369.
      Then his pension pot is topped up and other benefits on top.
      Meanwhile he stays under the parapet always.
      Dreadful.

  3. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I do not see an end of this until Mark Turner retires, which is a while yet.

    Meanwhile, Nancy Platts says that she has “physically walked” around Whitehawk. This is a tautology. What else is walking but physical? “psychically walking” could, though, be an interesting notion in these online times.

    • Some Guy Reply

      We live in a world where a “virtual walk” is a perfectly normal (even pedestrian?) possibility.

  4. fed-up with brighton politics Reply

    As others have said, Geoff Raw keeps his head well below the parapet, but the fact is that he receives a salary well in excess of the Prime Minister for doing exactly what?? Nothing at all, except presiding pathetically over total chaos. Let’s just remember. He was in charge of the bin strike fiasco some years back, although he was still promoted to CEO (lack of proper candidates who were willing to tackle this dysfunctional City?)

    The facts are that since he was promoted to CEO (why??) the performance of council services, such as they are, has gone even further down the drain.

    So, for starters, let’s just sack this ineffectual, very overpaid nonentity and get someone in who is willing and able to tackle the issues.

    I have no time for Nancy Platts, but in this instance she is right that Raw has to answer for his total failings.

  5. Dave Reply

    Simple solution, train hgv drivers. It’s £5k (they are spending 150k on school road closures so there is clearly money to piss up the wall)

    As for these Union members, get a grip, your not working the mines, you are well paid.

    As for the greens, show some leadership for once and tidy up this city, the pollution from your road schemes, plastic pollution from your awful bin services and your verbal pollution needs to stop.

    When’s the next election?

  6. Greens Out Reply

    Some Guy 23 September 2021 at 2.35pm Reply
    What exactly should the council (current Green or hypothetical replacement) do to rectify the problems?

    Well, they could start with getting rid of the woman they employed some three years ago on a six figure salary, employed solely to ‘sort out CityClean. Apart from having well over £300k of public money, our money, deposited in her bank account she has done nothing apart from ‘looking into implementing a computer system’. Clearly not fit for purpose, probably why she was employed.

    Then they could sack the entire Unionised members of Cityclean. That would then get rid of the vile Jurrassic Prick of Mark Turner from the ranks.

    Initially hire a load of agency workers (payments for which covered by not having the Ultimate Leach being paid each month) while sourcing more worthwhile employees. I’m sure a lot of the refugees that La La Lucas wants to bring here would jump at the chance of working.

    There’s a start.

    Oh, Raw needs to go too to free up a bit more cash.

    And Heley

    And Phlegm

    • Some Guy Reply

      Y’see, I really don’t have much faith in the “sack the council” method. There’s no indication that whoever comes along next will do a better job, or that the problems involved are purely due to lack of will.
      It looks like Rachel Chasseaud was the one to try and turn around the fraud problems last year https://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2020/07/22/cityclean-hit-by-fraud-bullying-sabotaged-vehicles-and-a-3m-overspend/ and the implication seems to be that the department is essentially an organised crime ring. No amount of party politics is going to sort that out, and the history of the situation pre-dates the Greens by some way.
      Also, I’m sceptical that firing two relevant employees (and three unrelated ones, financially speaking) would cover the costs of re-hiring the entire department from an agency, if such an organisation could be found willing to cover the job for less than the current yearly budget.

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