THE city’s bin collecting workforce has been reduced by nearly fifth due to sickness and annual leave.

Brighton and Hove City Council has had to hire an army of agency workers at a cost of £11,000 a week in an attempt to collect rubbish as a bin crisis hits the city.

The council claims sickness and annual leave was “unusually high” and “unexpected”.

Mark Turner, from the GMB, said agency workers were clearing a backlog of work caused by an “ageing” fleet of vehicles which have been unable to go out.

An average of one in five workers, who staff the city’s 38 daily waste and recycling collections rounds, did not attend work in the last two weeks.

Despite moving staff on to different rounds and a costly agency workforce, many collections have been missed and residents have been left frustrated.

Those living in Hollingdean Linkway said their rubbish, pictured below, had been uncollected for nearly four weeks before being cleared.

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Christian Flemming, 43, who lives in Prince’s Terrace, near Sussex Square, said his recycling has remained uncollected for over a week.

He said: “Brighton and Hove seems to have this problem plaguing them.

“We have always been considered the green city but we can’t deal with the rubbish and recycling.

“What are we supposed to do, just stop recycling?

“I don’t want to just throw my recycling in the other bin.

“So do I now have to drive to a community centre which will be pumping out CO2.

“There seems to be a systemic problem.

“It’s been great to see those triple bins on the seafront, it is well and good putting these things up but now many are overflowing with glass bottles.”

There are 38 rounds of waste and recycling which need to be covered each day.

These are carried out by 65 “loaders” and 38 “drivers”.

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Between Monday to Friday last week, as well as the same period the week before, loaders were absent 172 times.

Drivers were absent 35 times. This equates to a fifth of the 1,030 days of work if fully staffed over those ten days.

Figures release by the council show “76 working days were lost through sickness”.

The council said the cost to cover the two weeks with agency workers was in the region of £22,000.

A council spokesman said: “We realise the figures for sickness and annual leave over the last two weeks are unusually high, which makes running the service very difficult.

“The priority, as always, is to try to ensure Cityclean delivers the best possible service to our residents.

“This is why we have to hire agency workers to fill in for sudden and unexpected staff absences.”

Mr Turner, from the GMB union, said: “The sickness is complete and utter rubbish the situation is that the service has not been able to provide a service where equipment has been unavailable for staff. Vehicles have been sitting home and not out collecting.

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“The workforce is entitled to their holiday and they will normally take it after Christmas and New Years’.

“Only a certain amount of drivers are allowed off at any one time.”

During the two weeks, people took to social media to vent their concerns where Twitter users can tag in the council, which will then respond.

One person claimed there had been no bottle collection for at least two days in Upper Lewes Road.

Another person complained that new recycling bins in Lewes Road had not been collected since they were installed.

Frustrated resident Andy Winter, 60, who waited 18 days for recycling to be collected, said: “I wish communication was better.

“If they had put something out which said we have had high levels of sickness we are not able to make rounds, you would understand.

“When the seagulls are going through the bins after the rubbish has been out for 18 days and you have repeatedly been given promises which they repeatedly failed to deliver, you get frustrated.

“Given I’ve just turned 60, I’m allowed to be a grumpy old man.”

“People just want to see the basics done well, one of the main things being that the bins are empty and the streets are cleaned.”

Conservative councillor Lee Wares said it was unfair that taxpayers were not receiving a “regular and reliable” service.

He said: “It must be very difficult for our staff who try to do their best to be in the middle of this unholy mess that the Labour administration are failing to tackle.

“The last Labour administration said they were focussing on getting the basics right.

“The present seems to have abandoned that completely.

“Our residents pay significant amounts in council tax and it’s unfair on them not to be receiving a regular and reliable service for which they are paying.”

Arrests and arguments at the troubled depot

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LAST year saw a number of problems at Brighton’s Hollingdean waste depot, which has been subject to an internal and police investigation. 

There is an internal investigation relating to an argument between council officers and members of the GMB, who voted to strike.

Also, a police investigation saw three workers arrested for fraud.

The GMB, the union representing staff at Brighton and Hove’s Cityclean services, said its members voted to walk out because of “anti-trade union attacks”.

The union told the council it was to stage full-day walkouts on July 29, August 2, 3, 4 and 5.

But in a desperate bid to avoid a smelly summer, the council agreed to a number of measures at an “urgent” meeting.

These are believed to include allowing GMB rep Dave Russell to return to the Cityclean depot.

The union agreed to “suspend industrial strike action in good faith”.

In August, detectives arrested another member of staff at the waste collection department on suspicion of fraud, a 50-year-old Cityclean worker.

He was interviewed over the allegations and released under investigation.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “the man was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and theft, by Brighton detectives investigating an alleged fraud against the Cityclean department of Brighton and Hove City Council”

This comes after the arrest of two other workers at the depot on suspicion of fraud in May.
One, a 36-year-old Peacehaven man, was arrested on April 17 on suspicion of fraud by false representation.

A 39-year-old man, also from Peacehaven, was arrested on April 30 on suspicion of fraud by abuse of position.

They were both released under investigation.