A north-east council has spent more than £256,000 on relief bin lorry staff.
The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information, reveal that Aberdeenshire Council spent 65% of its budget in just five months for agency workers to cover sickness and absence among bin lorry drivers and loaders.
The authority’s response, which includes the expenditure up to the end of September, confirms it has £389,000 set aside for hiring temporary staff within its waste and recycling department.
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Alexander Burnett, MSP for Aberdeenshire West, said the authority was doing what it could to cope with staffing issues with a tight budget.
He said: “Using agency staff is rarely a council’s preferred option.
“But staff pressures over holidays and busier times of year mean it is unavoidable.
“In its draft budget, the SNP announced the intention to cut Aberdeenshire’s funding again next year.
“Most departments are now ‘lean’ and can only keep the personnel they need for day-to-day operation.
“They work hard and need cover for holidays and unplanned absence.
“So I believe the council is doing well to keep its agency spending well within budget.”
Earlier this week, the Press and Journal exclusively revealed that just a quarter of bin lorries operating in the north of Scotland had been kitted out with the life-saving technology recommended in the wake of the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy.
Six people died and 15 were injured when lorry driver Harry Clarke ploughed into a crowd of shoppers after losing consciousness behind the wheel four years ago.
A decision on controversial plans to overhaul waste and recycling services in the north-east has been pushed back until next year.
A council spokeswoman said: “Agency staff are used as cover to ensure that we meet our statutory duty to collect waste and clean the streets.
“Use of agency staff varies as they are used to cover absences due to sickness amongst other things.”
Meanwhile, a decision on controversial plans to overhaul waste and recycling services in the north-east has been pushed back until next year.
More than 2,500 responses were submitted in a public consultation on plans which include altering the collection cycle, reducing the size of waste bins and increasing recycling capacity in Aberdeenshire.
But the draft plan sparked outrage in some communities who argue they would be worse-off if the plans are approved.