Managers pitching in to drive Torbay bin lorries

Recycling collections are expected to return to normnal from tomorrow (Monday, November 2)

Like many other local authorities, Torbay is struggling with waste and recycling collections. - Credit: Archant

As a council, Torbay provides hundreds of services for its residents, whether it’s letting beach huts, cleaning the streets, or protecting the most vulnerable through social care interventions.

One of the few services that all residents receive is  waste and recycling collections.

About a year ago, the council took back in-house the services that had previously been provided by Tor2,  a company that was 85 per cent owned by the private sector.

During the pandemic, we have had a couple of wobbles in this service due to Covid issues, but this summer it has faced continuing pressures.

When dealing with these issues we have particularly prioritised general waste collection, which has left our recycling service facing significant delays.

The recent ‘pingdemic’ has been hitting our staff, as well as Covid itself.

As usual in summer, staff are taking well deserved annual leave, but another significant impact on the service is the national shortage of HGV drivers as a consequence of leaving the EU.

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Those of our managers who have HGV licences are jumping into bin lorries to try to keep the show on the road but, as many residents will have noticed, there are continuing delays in recycling collections.

We, like many other local authorities, are struggling.

We are developing a driver academy which will allow the opportunity of our loaders who may wish to train to become  HGV drivers to do so and developing financial incentives to retain HGV drivers, but this is no quick fix.

I was shocked to learn over the weekend that the Government had rejected calls for 10,000 temporary work visas. Such a boost in HGV drivers in the UK would of course help with our weekly recycling and bin collection.

Torbay MP Kevin Foster is a Home Office junior minister, and one would hope that he could encourage a rethink of this crazy Government decision.

In the last few days, many of us have been horrified by the scenes unfolding in Kabul.

Local authorities are being expected by the Government to step up to the mark to assist with housing Afghan families, and rightly so.

In recent columns, I have shared with readers the current crisis in Torbay with trying to house those that we have a statutory responsibility to support.

We’ve had up to 150 households in temporary accommodation this summer, a third of these being families.

In Torbay, seven per cent of our housing stock is social rented, i.e. former council housing or housing association properties that are regulated to keep them affordable.

This compares with 20 per cent of homes nationally being social rented.

Therefore, in Torbay we clearly have less than half the stock desperately sought by those already in need and what could be available for those fleeing from persecution in Afghanistan.

The Government needs to adequately fund social rented housing in Torbay, something that they have neglected to do for many years.

Our challenge in supporting Afghan refugees is just a symptom of the Government failing to fund social rented housing.

In 2016-17, we housed four Syrian families through offers of properties from the private sector.

If you have a property that you could let for a minimum of a year for an Afghan family, then please email community.safetyadmin@torbay.gov.uk

Sunday afternoon saw me visit for the first time the new Occombe Farm shop.

I was delighted with the range and quality of stock that they were presenting, with a promise of more as the deli counter had not quite opened yet.

Clearly their rationale for what to stock is to provide for Torbay residents all that is best in the west.

Whether it is Riverford organic milk, pies from Somerset or wine, beer and cider from Devon, it does feel as if we’ve got a Waitrose-like offer back in Torbay.

This time it is particularly supporting the West Country by buying local and, just as importantly, helping finance Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, who look after some of our beauty spots across Torbay.