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Serco sounds alert on Brexit threat to bin-lorry driving

A Brexit threat to binmen is lurking thanks to a shortage of lorry drivers, the head of one of Britain’s biggest outsourcers warned today. Serco chief executive Rupert Soames says the firm is struggling to recruit drivers for its waste collection arm, which employs around 4500 staff in the UK and has contracts including rubbish collection in Hammersmith and Fulham. EU workers only account for 4% of its 25,000 staff but they are “quite concentrated” and the market for drivers “has tightened quite considerably”, Soames said.

“We’ve got a waste collection business and one of the things we’re noticing now is that it is increasingly difficult to get agency drivers, many of whom came from EU countries. “A lot of qualified HGV drivers do come from Europe. That part of our business senses that particularly if you’re somebody like a qualified Polish truck driver you can get work anywhere in Europe.”

Soames’ bins business employs around 450 drivers. “There’s also an argument that the UK truck-driving industry has been pretty slack in training people up to be truck drivers. It has been quite heavily reliant on European truck drivers,” he added. Across the wider business, sales of ?1.5 billion and a 30% fall in underlying profits to ?35.3 million were in line with hopes.

It also stuck by full-year guidance despite uncertain markets, sending the outsourcer’s shares up 4p, or 3.5%, to 116.6p.

Soames, who carried out an emergency ?550 million rights issue after joining in 2014, said Serco was restoring its reputation with customers from being “in the poo” two years ago and writing off ?1.5 billion on contracts.

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