A SHORTAGE of HGV drivers, bin lorries which overheat in the sun and bad parking by residents have been to blame for a spate of missed refuse collections across the city, The Argus can reveal.

For weeks we have reported on residents’ disgust and anger at overspilling bins and missed collections, from Woodingdean in Brighton to Poets’ Corner in Hove.

One councillor – a lifelong city resident – said he had never seen the city look this bad and GMB union boss Mark Turner said the situation was the worst since his members went on strike in 2013.

So this week, after speaking to unions, residents, councillors and bin men, The Argus went to the Hollingdean depot of Cityclean, the council’s refuse and recycling service, to sit down with council officials to find out what has been going on.

No one offered an apology to residents but environment committee chairwoman and deputy council leader Gill Mitchell said: “I think in some areas, the standard of collection has not been all that is should be. That’s probably an understatement.

“We are well aware of that and we are working to address that. There are different reasons why roads get missed, lots of reasons, which we are addressing.”

Over the last month the service has had to contend with staff shortages and new vehicles which come with teething problems.

The fleet of 13 refuse trucks has to be driven by HGV-licensed drivers but two left a month ago and others have been on sick leave.

Additionally, six of the trucks were replaced a month ago and vehicles straight from the factory suffer a greater than normal number of mini-breakdowns, including a tendency for the hydraulic lifts to struggle in hot weather.

Damian Marmura, head of operations at Cityclean, said: “I would not say there is not sufficient numbers of crews, the main reason sometimes collections do not happen is the number of drivers. Because without the driver you cannot send the truck.”

He said if the team was a driver short, a round may be missed. Plans are put in place to cover that route on a later day but that can mean that by Friday, crews are still working on Thursday’s outstanding collections.

Sometimes it proves impossible to catch up during the week, so a home might go two weeks without a collection.

When that happens extra staff – and sometimes additional trucks – are sent to deal with what the crews call “double bubble” routes.

Replacement drivers have now been recruited and the new fleet is bedding in.

But bad parking is also to blame.

Mr Marmura said: “Access issues are becoming a huge problem for us. Previously it was just Hanover but now cul-de-sacs in Portslade and Patcham have been quite difficult. It is problematic parking.”

Cllr Mitchell said the council had added commercial and garden waste services 18 months ago to create revenue in the face of falling Government grant money. Those services, provided by a small additional team, have proved highly successful but now the focus is back on getting the basics right for residents’ domestic waste.


The Argus:

The Argus has reported stories of residents driven to distraction by missed collections and overflowing bins.

But there are hundreds more.

Yesterday Becky Fowler, of Tavistock Down in Hollingdean, Brighton, said: “We had to go more than three weeks.

“We’ve got six bins for 49 flats and two houses and they’re saying they can’t get their vehicle down here.

“We had to have a 71-year-old lady picking up rubbish from overspilling bins because she was worried for the children.

“There’s been glass all over the road.”

The 36-year-old mother of three said: “It looked like a dump. All six big black communal bins were overflowing.

“You couldn’t even turn a car in the turning bay there was that much rubbish in it.

“It was vile, it stank to high heaven. We’re just lucky no one damaged themselves or their tyres trying to turn round with the amount of rubbish.

“Further up the road the bins were spilling on to the pavements.

“It was an embarrassment to say we live down here.

“I think they should apologise. At the end of the day when you’re paying council tax, and here you have to pay a service charge too and it’s for a service that’s not being met, why should you pay it?”

For Linda Richardson, 70, it was six weeks between recycling collections at her home in Warren Avenue, Woodingdean.

She said: “It looked so bad, there were boxes of glass piling up.

“It gets blowy up here and the lids blow off and the worry is you’re going to get youngsters chucking bottles about.

“There was so much rubbish, people had put rubbish out next to their bins.

“It smelled horrible because it was six weeks’ worth of rubbish, you had paper and card flying around.

“We struggled to reverse on to the drive we share.

Like Becky Fowler, Mrs Richardson asked whether she was being provided the service she is paying for.

She said: “We pay our council tax, I pay £181 a month for a Band D home.

“And we’re not given a service and nobody does anything.

“You can’t get through on the phone, they say there’s a 45 minute wait and to go online. Nobody wants to talk to you.

“I think it’s appalling they won’t apologise.

“If we all said we wouldn’t pay some of our council tax because you’re not providing a decent service, they wouldn’t like that, would they?”


15,600,000 – how many refuse, recycling, and commercial collections Cityclean made last year

12,000 – how many collections were missed. That is a collection rate of 99.92 per cent.

31 – lorries across the fleet: 13 for refuse, ten for recycling, seven for communal refuse and recycling bins and one for glass

117 – staff working for Cityclean across refuse, recycling, commercial and garden waste collection.

163 – staff working for Cityclean on street cleaning

8 – staff (plus one manager) in the Cityclean call centre. The council recommends using web forms to make contact.

3 per cent – how much the Cityclean budget fell between last year and this year.

11 per cent – how much the Cityclean budget has fallen since 2014/15, from £11.5 million to £10.3 million.

The Argus:


THE council says Cityclean’s service is “not what it should be” in some parts of the city.

But, staff told The Argus, there are things we can all do to help.

Andy Stolton from Portslade has been a Cityclean refuse operative for ten years. He said more problems are caused by bad parking on narrow streets than anything else.

Driver numbers and mechanical problems play their part in missed collections, he said, but added: “We can’t help the way people park. It only takes a wheel sticking out.”

The team’s hardworking call centre staff, a team of just eight, have to deal with calls not just about rubbish but all environment issues from broken streetlights to dog mess in parks.

Last week call waiting times reached 45 minutes but the council says it can act faster if residents use its Do It Now web forms for missed collections, requesting a street clean, ordering new waste containers and more. Go to www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/do-it-now/recycling-and-rubbish.