Councillor Williams reported on the Recycling and Waste, Waterways and the Exeter Port Authority areas of her Portfolio, detailing the issues relating to achieving the Council’s published priorities, major ongoing programmes of work, issues impacting delivery, financial performance and budget requirements and potential changes being considered.
The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-
· there were a number of factors which made it difficult to provide a precise timetable for the full rollout of food waste collection across the city. As well as the difficulties noted in recruiting qualified drivers, care needed to be taken to ensure that the collection routes were planned as efficiently as possible. There were a number of different types of properties, particularly in inner city areas, which required careful analysis and the collection of garden waste, for example, often covered more than one ward and there was a need to minimise the mileage covered when factoring in the need to return to Exton Road to offload materials. There was presently a limit to the amount of food waste that could be stored at the depot prior to being transferred to Holsworthy for anaerobic disposal. It was estimated that 47% of current waste within the black bins was anaerobic and, therefore, once the full rollout of food waste collection occurred, Exeter’s rate of recycling would increase significantly;
· it was necessary to prioritise black and green bin collection which was a statutory requirement. As such, it had been unfortunate that it had proved necessary to suspend the garden waste collection service in order to maintain the statutory service. The communication process in notifying residents of changes had been improved and a data base was being developed with Strata including the compilation of residents’ emails;
· the Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety confirmed that the recruitment of drivers was a key issue and that obtaining licences to drive 7.5 tonne and 26 tonne refuse collection vehicles was a complex process and that the same problem was being experienced by the private sector. The service had embarked on an internal development programme giving opportunity to a number of staff within the service to qualify as drivers. The roll out of food waste containers also had to be factored into the process;
· the Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety advised that the Council has a comprehensive fleet management replacement programme and the timescale for replacing existing diesel vehicles was seven years and would be eight years for the new electric vehicles;
· the Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety referred to the ongoing advertising for the recruitment of drivers as well as the use of recruitment agencies which it was hoped would attract those with relevant experience such as delivery drivers. The development programme was encouraging existing staff such as loaders to become drivers. He praised the response of staff to the recent extra day’s bank holiday following the passing of Her Majesty the Queen and to their turn out to ensure that there were no disruptions to the service. They were very dedicated and excellent ambassadors for the city;
· the Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety advised that the total staff complement required for the food waste collection service was five drivers and 10 loaders. The delay in obtaining licenses from the DVLA had been resolved, although there could be delays in booking training courses with companies due to the demand for places on intensive driver training programmes. The new electric vehicles had been well received by staff who had quickly adapted to the nuances of longer vehicles. Manufacturers had been advised of the value of enabling the vehicles to be charged from the rear;
· the Service Lead Environmental Health and Community Safety updated Members on progress with the construction of the larger roll on roll off food waste disposal bays to the necessary standard required by the Environment Agency. At present, the volume of disposal was limited by the smaller skips used by the 7 tonne vehicles; and
· a report on the Harbour Revision Order would be submitted to Executive and Council, the key aims of the Order being to improve access to the River and Canal, to charge for existing services and to codify Health and Safety requirements. It was difficult to predict any date for implementation because of the costs involved and the need for consultation. Responding to a Member, she acknowledged the unique nature of the Canal and its value to the city and the importance for the City Council to maintain control. The River and Canal was a great asset to residents and visitors and she praised the work of the Harbour Master and his team. The Portfolio Holder also referred to the intention to hold a Historic Vessels Festival which was being progressed by the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust.