Local Authorities COVID-19 Response to Front Line Services

Thanks to our friends at APSE, Helping Hand Environmental are able to share UK local authorities briefing document, which will be of particular interest to our customers in the following sectors:

  • Waste Collection
  • Waste Recycling Collections
  • Street Cleansing Services
  • Parks & Green Spaces

With the onset of ever more stringent measures to control the spread of the coronavirus, local authorities across the UK are having to implement pre-prepared business continuity plans and prioritise the levels of services they provide in the following ways:

  1. Priority rating being allocated to different service elements
  2. Arrangements for the safety of staff as well as covering staff absence
  3. Service continuity planning involving the redeployment and training of staff
  4. Innovative approaches such as providing mobile waste collection facilities 

APSE asked their member authorities for information as to how they plan to deliver services in light of the impact of the virus.

From responses, it is apparent that the majority are now referring to their pre-prepared Business Continuity Plans – with commonality across the UK with regards to the changes to delivery either implemented or ready to be implemented should the need arise.

Nominally, Local Authorities are prioritising their services based on resident needs into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary services:

Primary: (essential services – all staff redeployed to ensure service delivery)

  • Waste Collection – including recycling, food, clinical
  • Cemetery services
  • Public & contractual transport

Secondary: (medium priority – redeploy staff in phase 2 to ensure primary service delivery)

  • Street Cleansing – scheduled cleansing i.e emptying bins, town centres
  • Street Cleansing – reactive cleansing i.e fly tipping, reported litter
  • Playground checks

Tertiary: (non-essential)

  • Road/pavements sweeping
  • Grounds maintenance – wedding, planting, roundabouts
  • Bin deliveries to residents or commercial properties
  • Allotments
  • Abandoned cars/vehicles
  • Locking parks and general park duties
  • Countryside management

Key Outcome: Waste collection is seen by all local authorities and the UK government as a priority front line service with key workers status.

Local Authority operational changes due to COVID-19:

  • General waste collection has been given top priority followed then by dry recyclable collections, food and clinical waste.
  • Garden waste collections has been suspended
  • Bulky waste collections have been halted
  • Residual waste not placed in a household bin will not be collected
  • Street cleansing staff and grounds maintenance staff are being redeployed where needed and trained to support waste collections.
  • Recycling centres will remain open
  • Level of service would be very much dependent of the level of the sickness/absences
  • Street cleansing would prioritise town centres, and areas of high footfall like near supermarkets and litter and dog fouling bin emptying as highest priority.
  • Ancillary services like road sweeping, cleaning alleyways, sweeping of rural roads would be reduced
  • Reduction in large mechanical sweeping to free staff up for other duties

Additional Considerations:

  • Parking recycling vehicles at bring sites to increase capacity
  • Parking recycling vehicles to provide temporary bring sites (weekends)
  • Putting recyclables into residual waste in remote locations (last resorts)

Protection of Staff:

  • In relations to members of the public who have contracted the corona virus or are awaiting test results, local authorities are insisting any tissues or associated waste are double bagged and in placed only in household general waste bins – where waste will be held for 72 hours before disposal.
  • Staggering clocking in and off time for crews at their depots
  • Restrict number of operatives per waste vehicle (now just a driver and loader)
  • Support staff and non-essential management/supervisors are required to work from home
  • Social distancing is a key requirement to ensure the health of staff but to take into account the number of staff who have underlying heath conditions.

Undoubtedly there will be significant changes and demands being placed on local authorities during the next few months but our councils will undoubtedly rise to the challenge and meet the need of the public and their customers.