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Local politicians have warned that the seven day Covid isolation period has caused “terrible” rubbish collection delays which have led to large quantities of uncollected refuse. Bins in some areas have been left “overflowing” with waste from the festive season after collections were missed or rearranged due to a lack of workers.
Bin collection services in London, Gloucestershire and Somerset have been scaled back, according to local councils, due to the number of workers currently self-isolating.
Chelmsford City Council confirmed 23 members of staff were absent.
They confirmed that as a result, they had cancelled three days’ worth of food waste collections.
While North Somerset Council said they had been unable to pick up 1,000 recycling bins on New Year’s Eve as crews remain “stretched due to staff sickness”.
The mounting waste is causing an influx of complaints from concerned residents.
Stephanos Ioannou, a Conservative councillor in Enfield, said the number of complaints about missed bin collections was roughly double the average for this time of year.
He explained that in addition to overflowing refuse, he’s also seeing discarded Christmas trees from people’s properties.
He told PA: “I’ve been driving round my ward and seeing bins overflowing and Christmas trees are left outside.
“Over the Christmas period, usually I get on average 30 emails a week on waste services.
“I checked my inbox yesterday… and had about 50 or 60.”
While Matt Brooks, 40, an Enfield resident who had complained about his Christmas recycling not being collected said: “When I contact the council to report it (I’m) faced with disinterest and just told to report it again if it happens.”
However, Enfield Council said it provided an “uninterrupted” bin collection service throughout the Christmas period and that Covid was not a factor.
They did however note that that three streets in Southgate had been missed because of a fallen tree and driver error, and added that this is where the majority of the complaints came from.
Elsewhere, in Gloucester, many bin collectors are off with Covid at the same time, due to working in close proximity to one another.
Liberal Democrat councillor Declan Wilson said the area had been hit with “terrible problems” as recycling collections were stopped altogether over Christmas, caused by a combination of Covid-related absences and driver shortages.
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He said: “The reason for it is driver shortages and Covid as well.
“It’s Brexit and Covid as well. We have brought this up in council meetings.
“What they tell us is they’ve got the drivers working in cells so there’s two or three working together, so one of them gets Covid and that means two or three of them are off. It hasn’t been great.”
Also, several London boroughs including Haringey and Newham have announced there may be future delays to services due to staff shortages amid the Covid Omicron outbreak.
In addition, green food and garden recycling bin collections have been cancelled “until further notice” by Manchester City Council due to the number of staff in isolation.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council apologised for missed collections over the festive period after teams of refuse workers were affected by Covid in the week leading up to December 30.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England, said that workers have been badly impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant and called for them to be prioritised for Covid tests.
An LGA spokesman said: “As cases of Covid-19 rise in light of the omicron variant, councils are concerned that these existing staffing issues may get worse.”
The industry is just one of many impacted by staff shortages due to Covid isolation rules.
The isolation period could see some classes switching to virtual learning, as school headteachers warned areas with higher cases may struggle to find enough supply staff to cover the gaps.
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