Services threatened as councils priced out by high driver wages

12 October 2021

Wage increases in the private sector to attract HGV drivers are pricing out UK councils and hitting vital services. 

​​The Local Government Association (LGA) warned roads may be left in dangerous conditions this winter because councils are short of gritter drivers. 

Cllr David Renard, transport spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said private sector bids to attract HGV drivers to the sector were “exacerbating” shortages in the public sector, as councils cannot compete with wage inflation. 

He said: “Fast-inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector risks exacerbating issues in the public sector, with the rises potentially creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors.

“While most councils have been able to keep services running, some may find that their gritting services are affected in the same way that some have seen waste collection services impacted.”

He said while councils are “resilient” and keen to work alongside government to find a solution, “this is a lengthy process and does not alleviate the short-term pressures on frontline services.”

“We want to work with government to address these short-term staffing issues to ensure people across the country can continue to receive the services they rely upon.”

Estimates suggest the UK has a HGV driver shortage of between 70,000-100,000 drivers.

Almost 20 councils across the UK have reported difficulties in carrying out bin collections due to the shortages. 

Water companies meanwhile were permitted to temporarily reduce the amount of chemicals used to treat wastewater after driver shortages meant water companies were unable to secure sufficient supply.

The logistics industry has accused prime minister Boris Johnson of “shifting the blame” for the driver shortage after he said the sector should not rely on low wages and low costs.

The government has announced it is almost doubling the spaces available on its driver “skills bootcamp”, taking the total to 5,000. 

The scheme, which has received £17m of public funding, will be open to newcomers to the profession aged 19 and over to gain their HGV licence.

Places on the scheme are also being offered to drivers who wish to return to the profession or upgrade their licence to allow them to transport “dangerous” goods such as fuel. 

However, the scheme will not begin operating until November, with the first cohort of trainees expected to gain their licenses in February. 

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