'Workers are fed up' - driver shortage blamed for bin collection delays

Generic - Binmen picture.
Council recycling feature at West Norfolk council depot, new 240 litres '

Thousands of green bins have not been collected across Breckland - Credit: Archant

Thousands of wheelie bins in Breckland have gone unemptied for the second time in a month.

Green bins in parts of the district, including in Thetford, Watton and the Dereham area, have not been collected this week. 

Breckland Council said the issue was down to "local and national driver shortages".

There have been delays to green bin collections in Breckland this week

There have been delays to green bin collections in Breckland this week - Credit: Archant

But Terry Jermy, district councillor for the Thetford Burrell ward, claimed deep-rooted problems had existed since a new £230m deal with Serco began earlier this year.

"A number of reasons have been given as to why this is occurring, but the most significant seems to be staff shortages," said.

"Initially it was being blamed on the 'pingdemic', but now workers are simply leaving their jobs.

"There used to be an element of performance-related pay, but that no longer exists. Essentially they are taking home less money for doing the exact same work.

Terry Jermy who is chair of the board at Charles Burrell Centre and a town, district, and county cou

Terry Jermy, district councillor for the Thetford Burrell ward - Credit: Archant

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"These guys have worked so hard over the past year and we are quick to praise them. But this is how we reward them?"

Mr Jermy added that he and other councillors had been unaware of changes to employee terms and conditions when the Serco contract was approved. 

Just last month, as around 2,500 Breckland bins were collected late, a row erupted over working conditions for binmen and a poor standard of service

As troubles persist, Unison - which represents a large proportion of the workforce - said staff members were "fed up".

Cameron Matthews, the union's organiser for the Eastern region, added: "The blame for these missed collections lies squarely at Serco’s door.

"Workers are fed up with the low pay and high workloads, and are leaving in droves.

“One way the company could start to fix this problem is by speedily responding to Unison's 4pc pay claim to make the job more attractive to existing staff and potential new recruits.

“Instead, Serco is blowing wads of cash on the sticking plaster of more agency workers, and its drivers, crew and Breckland residents are suffering the consequences."

While scores of dustbins were missed earlier in the week, Breckland Council said most have since been picked up. 

From left, Breckland Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council

Representatives from Breckland, North Norfolk and West Norfolk councils after a joint contract with Serco was agreed - Credit: Photo: Keith Mindham Photography

Residents still waiting for collection have been instructed to leave their bins out and wait for refuse crews to return "as soon as they are able".

It is anticipated that all of them will have been collected by the end of Saturday (August 14). 

Sarah Suggitt, Breckland's cabinet member for contracts, explained the raft of reasons for the hold-up - chiefly a lack of HGV drivers.

“We understand that not having your bin collected as planned can be frustrating and we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused," said Ms Suggitt.

"The delays are largely as a result of a shortage of driver availability due to summer holidays and non-Covid sickness. This is compounded by a national shortage of HGV drivers, making recruiting more difficult not only for us but across the country and a number of sectors.

Sarah Suggitt, Breckland Council's cabinet member for contracts

Sarah Suggitt, Breckland Council's cabinet member for contracts - Credit: Gary Donnison Photography 2021

“To tackle this, all qualified drivers are being put onto the waste collection service. Crews are completing each day’s daily scheduled work and then returning to collect any outstanding bins from previous incomplete rounds.

“The shortage of drivers and delays in HGV driving tests are national issues due to the pandemic. We are working closely with our provider, Serco, which is developing a national plan to mitigate these issues and minimise future disruption to services."

Meanwhile, Serco insisted work was being done to fill its job vacancies. 

Emma Windle, senior contract manager, said: “We would like to apologise to Breckland residents who have recently experienced disruption.

"The national HGV driver shortage has placed additional pressures on the team at an already challenging time.

"To minimise disruption and bring the service back up to a high standard, we have been offering employees paid overtime for any additional hours they are prepared to work, including Saturdays.

"In addition, we have been working hard to recruit into our current vacancies. I would personally like to thank the whole team for their support during this challenging time."

The full list of locations affected on Friday (August 13) is as follows:


  • Brakefield Lane 

  • Dereham Road 

  • Greenwood Drive 

  • Mattishall Road 

  • Reymerston Road 

  • Station Lane 

  • Tanners Green 

  • The Lings 

  • Thuxton 

  • Town Lane 


  • Batemans Lane 

  • Church Lane 

  • Crabapple Lane 

  • Hingham Road 

  • North Green 

  • North Green Lane 

  • Park Lane 

  • Post Office Lane 

  • Reymerston Road 

  • Silver Street 

  • Southburgh Road 

  • The Street 

  • Tinkers Lane 

  • Tolvers Loke 


  • Northfields Lane 

  • Shipdham Road 

  • Steggs Lane 

  • Whinburgh Road 


  • Church Road

  • Dereham Road 

  • Shop Street 

  • Station Road 


  • Whinburgh Road 


  • Beechwood Avenue   

  • Brandon Road 

  • Bridle Road 

  • Bull Yard 

  • Cadman Way 

  • Chaston Place 

  • Churchill Close 

  • Clarence Court 

  • Coburg Close 

  • Constable Court 

  • Curlew Close 

  • East Road 

  • Edinburgh Close 

  • Fleming Court 

  • Frederick Fitt Court 

  • Gable Court 

  • Green Oak Road 

  • Gregor Shanks Way 

  • Goldfinch Way 

  • Harvey Street 

  • Heron Way 

  • Heys Yard 

  • High Street 

  • Jubilee Road 

  • Kingfisher Way 

  • Langmere Road 

  • Malthouse Close 

  • Mallard Road 

  • Mary Shanks Close 

  • Merton Road 

  • Middle Street 

  • Mill Road 

  • Orchard Close 

  • Peddars Court 

  • Plover Road 

  • Princess Close 

  • Queensway 

  • Ringmere Close 

  • Ringmere Road 

  • Saffron Close 

  • Sandringham Court 

  • South Road 

  • Spencer Court 

  • Stokes Avenue 

  • Swaffham Road 

  • Tern Close 

  • Thetford Road 

  • Three Post Road 

  • Tom Milford Place 

  • Vincent Place 

  • Wayland Avenue   

  • West Road 

  • West End Court 

  • Wick Farm Close 

  • Wissey Grove 

  • William Close 

  • Windsor Court 

  • Wodehouse Court 

  • Woodpecker Drive 

  • Goddards Court   

  • George Trollope Road 

  • North Road 


  • Abram Court 

  • Ashley Road 

  • Beech Road 

  • Beetley Grange 

  • Beetley Meadows 

  • Birch Avenue 

  • Bittering Street 

  • Bracken Avenue 

  • Church Lane 

  • Common Drift 

  • Elmham Road 

  • Fakenham Road 

  • Gorse View 

  • Green Lane 

  • Halfpenny Lane 

  • Hall Road  

  • High House Road 

  • Holt Road 

  • Maple Close 

  • Meadow Close 

  • Melton Close 

  • Oakland Drive 

  • River View 

  • School Road 

  • Spinney Close 

  • Stone Road 

  • Stoney Lane 

  • Tavern Close 

  • The Paddocks 

  • Two Oaks Close 

  • Willow Court 

  • Wood Drive 


  • Arundel Close  

  • Bilney Road  

  • Bittering Street  

  • Bridge Street  

  • Chequers Drift  

  • Chequers Lane  

  • Church Lane  

  • Common Drift  

  • Dereham Road  

  • Dodson Drive  

  • Freezer Close  

  • Gresley Close  

  • Halls Drive  

  • Litcham Road  

  • Lodge Farm Meadows  

  • Longham Road  

  • Meadow Drive  

  • Nursery Close  

  • Old Bridge  

  • Panhard Drive 

  • Park Road  

  • Rougholme Close  

  • Soken Drive  

  • St Nicholas Court  

  • Swan Drive  

  • Sweetbriar Gardens  

  • The Drift  

  • The Green 

  • The Oaks  


  • Gorgate Road 

  • Manor Farm Lane 


  • Abbey Mews 

  • Abbeygate 

  • Almond Grove 

  • Ash Close 

  • Avenue Gardens 

  • Bergamot Close 

  • Blackthorn Close 

  • Borage Close 

  • Boston End 

  • Brandon Road 

  • Burlington Close 

  • Campion Road 

  • Canons Close 

  • Canons Walk 

  • Canterbury Way 

  • Caraway Road 

  • Carriage Court 

  • Coney Close 

  • Elm Road 

  • Fennel Way 

  • Fir Road 

  • Foxglove Road 

  • Harebell Close 

  • Honeysuckle Close 

  • Hudson Close 

  • Jasmine Close 

  • Jubilee Close 

  • Laburnum Grove 

  • London Road 

  • Mackenzie Road 

  • Maine Street 

  • Montpelier Drive 

  • Mundford Road 

  • New England Way 

  • New Hampshire Way 

  • New Road 

  • Norwich Road 

  • Nuns Bridges Road 

  • Nunsgate 

  • Old Croxton Road 

  • Poppy Close 

  • Portland Place 

  • Primrose Close 

  • Prior Stephen Way 

  • Priory Park 

  • Redcastle Road 

  • Roger Bigod Mews 

  • Ross Walk 

  • Santon Close 

  • St Barnabas Close 

  • St Edmunds Court 

  • St Johns Way 

  • St Martins Way 

  • St Marys Court 

  • St Michaels Close 

  • Station Road 

  • Stowe Walk 

  • Stuart Drive 

  • Sundew Close 

  • The Sidings 

  • Sundew Close 

  • Walmington Court 

  • Warren Close 

  • Wheatacres 

Garden waste had also gone uncollected in the following locations:


  • Common Lane
  • Hall Road
  • Sorrel Lane


  • Access Road to Gateley Hall
  • Church Road
  • The Common

North Elmham 

  • Ash Court
  • Back Lane
  • Beatie Gardens
  • Brookside
  • Broom Green
  • Broom Green Road
  • Cathedral Drive
  • Cedar Close
  • Church Lane
  • Eastgate Street 
  • Elm Close
  • Great Heath Road
  • Hay Meadow
  • Heath Road
  • High Street
  • Holt Road
  • Larch Grove
  • Oak Avenue
  • Orchard Close
  • Pump Street
  • Ryburgh Road
  • Spencers Close
  • Spring Meadow
  • Station Road
  • Street Farm Loke
  • Wensum Drive
  • Worthing Road


  • Church Road
  • Swanton Morley Road