RUBBISH and recycling collections for hundreds of residents across the Malvern Hills district have been delayed in the wake of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Unusually high volumes of waste, unplanned staff absences and mechanical problems with bin lorries have been blamed for an "overwhelming demand" of the service, run by Malvern Hills District Council.

Council officers have apologised for the problems and said they hoped the backlog will be cleared by today (Friday).

The problems meant that the council could not always collect rubbish on the scheduled days, or according to the revised timetable for the holiday period.

The total number of bins affected is not known, but wide areas of the district were reported to be affected.

In response to inquiries by the Gazette, Tim Lewis, the council's development and support resources officer, said: “During the last seven days the waste collection team has experienced a number of unavoidable issues during what is one of the busiest times of the year for us, which has placed an overwhelming demand on the service.

“We planned more resource, namely people and vehicles, for a longer period post-Christmas. However, the volumes of waste exceeded even what we had planned for.

"To add further complications, we had a high number of unplanned staff absences, adding further pressure to the present collection operatives already facing unexpected levels of waste.

"We also had several vehicles affected by bin lift breakdowns requiring specialist engineers to attend and resolve, leading to further delays in collections”

“Additional resources are being put in to catch up and we expect the service to return to normal by the end of this week. Residents should continue to put their bins out on their normal collection day and we will empty them as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Cllr Anthony Warburton, who has previously been critical of the waste collection service, said: "It seems that the department has been struck with some unfortunate problems, all at once. I have to say that the complaint level I receive about refuse collection could not be lower. Indeed, compliments have been paid in the past about the efforts made by council staff in seriously adverse weather conditions. I trust that things will be put right fairly quickly."