Fears driver shortages could hit gritting this winter

There are fears the HGV driver shortage that has long-dogged bin collections in Stockport could hit the council’s gritting programme this winter.

Last month it was reported that contractor Total Local Company (TLC) had lost 40pc of its drivers since April, with many departing for better paid jobs.

Drivers had already been in short supply due to the pandemic and Councillor Sheila Bailey, and cabinet member for ‘Sustainable Stockport’ admitted she struggled to see an end to the disruption.

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Now with winter fast approaching she has been challenged over how the authority will deal with icy roads or heavy snowfalls as temperatures begin to dip.

Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Roberts quizzed the Labour chief on whether extra measures had been taken ‘to ensure our communities and the roads we rely on are safe and passable this winter’.

Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday, he added: “There is a real risk that our driver capacity issues, the effects of which are clearly visible in our bin crews, moves from being one of inconvenience and irritation and becomes one of life and death – particularly if our primary routes can’t be kept clear.”

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Councillor Bailey told the meeting there was ‘no doubt whatsoever that the gritting of roads ‘ was ‘an absolute priority’.

“It has to be because if our roads aren’t gritted, the chance of serious accidents obviously increases,” she said.

And while Coun Bailey acknowledged a shortage of drivers had put the council in a ‘really difficult position’, she said talks to plan for ‘a very bad winter or a very bad snow fall’ were imminent.

She said: “There are no changes that have been made at the moment because the gritters are able to get out.

“However, discussions will take place on what contingencies are available should the situation change and weather conditions deteriorate considerably.”

She also told the meeting that weather forecasts were being looked at ‘very, very closely’ and getting gritters out in cold weather undoubtedly remained a priority.

However the cabinet member warned that the council was not able to ‘conjure up HGV drivers from nowhere’.

“Certainly from the point of view of Christmas, and the run up to Christmas, an awful lot of very large commercial companies who can pay considerably more than local councils can are offering very, very good wages for HGV drivers,” she added.

Stockport full council met at the town hall on Thursday night (November 18).

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