Bin collections have been temporarily suspended in Uttlesford due to an operational failing at the district council.

To operate bin lorries, the council requires a designated transport manager and a vehicle operator licence.

However Uttlesford's transport manager left the council, and the licence renewal date fell into the gap before the new transport manager was fully up and running.

As the error went unnoticed, the council did not obtain an interim licence extension - leaving bins overflowing.

Cllr Susan Barker, leader of the Conservative group, said: "Thousands of residents have been left with overflowing bins at the kerbside. This is wholly unacceptable.

"UDC took too long to acknowledge the error and provide cover."

Fellow Conservative councillor Ray Gooding added: "Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) are taking this district into a 'Winter of Discontent' with intervention from Government in the planning process, and questioning their progress with the Local Plan, and now their abject failure to provide an essential service.

"Meanwhile, Conservatives at Essex County Council (who are not responsible for collecting waste) rally around trying to mitigate the impact of this failure."

Bin collections are set to resume with the help of outside agencies - but the Conservatives expressed concerns that in a bid to 'play catch-up' recycling and general waste will be combined, all ending up in landfill.

Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch wrote to district council leader Cllr Petrina Lees, saying: saying: "It is very concerning that under R4U’s leadership the council continues to let down local residents, unable to deliver the fundamental services their taxes pay for."

North West Essex Labour Party has asked the administration to call an extraordinary meeting so that councillors and the public have the opportunity to question officers and Cllr Neil Reeve, portfolio holder for the environment and climate change.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Cllr Neil Reeve, portfolio holder for the environment and climate change at Uttlesford District CouncilCllr Neil Reeve, portfolio holder for the environment and climate change at Uttlesford District Council (Image: UDC)

A Labour spokesperson said: "This is another example of maladministration from UDC; in recent years there have been a number of governance failures, such as the failure of auditors to sign off accounts and delays in finalising the Local Plan.

"These failures have real consequences. The result this week is overflowing bins – but it will not stop there unless lessons are learned and changes made.

"Residents need to know that the council is doing everything it can to rectify the problem and exploring all possible avenues for restarting bin collections in the meantime."

Cllr Reeve acknowledged the "unacceptable" failings of the kerbside collection service.

He said: "This avoidable error is totally unacceptable.

"UDC dropped the ball, so I apologise to residents and local businesses, as has the chief executive.

"However the new transport manager is now in place and the required paperwork has been submitted to the traffic commissioner.

"The new licence grant should be quick. But if it takes longer than it should, in parallel to get kerbside collections back as quickly as we can, UDC is seeking to temporarily contract vehicles from neighbouring local authorities.

"We will fix it; and expect to have the bin lorries back on the streets next week. Please visit the UDC website to get the latest information.

"We’d also like to make it clear that none of this has anything to do with UDC’s hardworking crews."

Cllr Reeve also apologised for missed deliveries over the past nine months, which he said are due to an increased volume of waste, a growing population and a more remote location where bin lorries must be emptied.


He said: "The whole situation is literally rubbish and not good enough

"In response, during the last six months at UDC we’ve been working on improvements.

"These include obtaining extra vehicles and hiring crews, staffing changes, and reviewing routes and rounds.

"These improvements have been taking longer than we’d all like, but are well underway."

Trade waste collections will restart on Tuesday, January 30, while domestic collections will restart on Wednesday.