Council spends £400,000 on minibuses to follow bin lorries around so workers can socially distance

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A view from Queen's Park across the city of Glasgow. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced Glasgow will remain in Level Three lockdown as cases remain high in the city. Picture date: Friday May 28, 2021. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
Glasgow City Council has spent nearly half a million pounds in less than a year on keeping refuse workers socially distanced - by hiring minibuses to follow bin lorries. (SWNS)

A local authority has spent nearly half a million pounds in less than a year hiring minibuses to follow bin lorries around so workers can stay socially distanced.

Glasgow City Council introduced the scheme in August 2020 because coronavirus social distancing rules meant only two members of the four to six-person teams were allowed in a bin lorry at a time. 

The measure, which involves the minibuses following the lorries around the city, has cost more than £400,000 so far, according to information obtained via Freedom of Information laws. 

DALGETY BAY, FIFE - MARCH 30: A kerbside bin collection still under way in a suburban street as councils cut back on collections and close recycling centres in response to the coronavirus pandemic, on March 30, 2020 in Dalgety Bay, Fife. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
Coronvirus made socially distancing difficult in refuse lorries. (Getty Images)

The figures show that costs hit £11,145.11 in August, peaking at £69,291.51 in January and have since steadily declined. 

The total figure is £403,586.76, according to the data, but it is not known how many minibuses have been hired or how long the council plan to use the vehicles for.

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Before August 2020, it is believed that the council was using its own "current fleet vehicles" — understood to be buses used for the city’s ASL (Additional Support for Learning) schools — which were available at the time.

Critics have questioned whether a cheaper alternative could have been found, with the city's Labour group saying the cost is "yet another surprising financial implication brought about by COVID-19".

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "The law, industry standards and absolutely all expert health and safety advice made it clear that crew couldn’t safely share the relatively small space in vehicle cabs during their working day.

"Using additional vehicles has been completely necessary.

"It is a temporary solution that has been employed by the vast majority of councils to ensure disruption to cleansing services has been minimised as far as possible.

"Absolutely, that has been expensive, but protecting the health and safety of staff has been absolute priority of staff throughout the pandemic."

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