Ashbourne News Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Gareth But­ter­field gareth.but­ter­[email protected]­bourne­new­stele­

DER­BYSHIRE Dales coun­cil­lors have unan­i­mously agreed to push ahead with plans to charge for gar­den waste col­lec­tions.

The district coun­cil’s cur­rent con­tract with Serco Lim­ited, cost­ing £1.9 mil­lion per year, runs out in Au­gust 2020 and the author­ity has been on the hunt for a re­place­ment.

It says that the cur­rent ser­vice can­not re­main the same due to changes in the mar­ket, in­clud­ing the value of re­cy­clable ma­te­rial and con­tin­ued pres­sures on the coun­cil’s fi­nances.

The author­ity says that the cur­rent con­tract would cost £2.5 mil­lion a year if it was awarded un­der cur­rent mar­ket pres­sures, which would be “un­af­ford­able”. The coun­cil’s to­tal an­nual bud­get is around £35 mil­lion a year.

As a re­sult it put for­ward a se­ries of po­ten­tial changes, in­clud­ing chang­ing to four­weekly waste pick­ups and a range of po­ten­tial charges for gar­den waste pick­ups from £25 up to £55 per year.

Af­ter a record re­sponse to its con­sul­ta­tion, with more than 2,600 peo­ple shar­ing their views, the author­ity has ditched the four-weekly pro­pos­als but is car­ry­ing for­ward with charge­able fort­nightly pick­ups for gar­den waste.

At a meet­ing last Thurs­day, coun­cil­lors fi­nalised key de­tails of the fu­ture waste con­tract so it could be­gin ten­der plan­ning. It is thought that eight com­pa­nies are be­ing courted by the author­ity.

The coun­cil is keen to re­tain the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing pick­ups for resid­ual waste from fort­nightly to three­weekly from 2024 – halfway through the pro­posed new eight-year con­tract.

Un­der the coun­cil’s cur­rent con­tract, the pri­vate firm ac­cepts all li­a­bil­ity for the ser­vice but this would not be an option un­der the fu­ture con­tract.

It says com­pa­nies are more cau­tious and would only be will­ing to share the li­a­bil­ity with the coun­cil - to be agreed in fur­ther talks.

Of those who re­sponded to the con­sul­ta­tion, some 40 per cent said they would be will­ing to pay for gar­den waste pick-ups, with 72 per cent say­ing they would pay £25.

Coun­cil of­fi­cers say the na­tional av­er­age price for gar­den waste col­lec­tions is £40 per year – which could bring in an ex­tra £454,000 a year.

The ser­vice would be opt-in not opt-out.

Sev­eral Labour and Lib­eral Demo­crat coun­cil­lors said they voted to push for­ward with the con­tract for the good of res­i­dents but “with a heavy heart”.

Cllr Irene Rat­cliffe said the author­ity should have con­sid­ered a coun­cil tax hike in­stead of charg­ing for gar­den waste, so the ser­vice could re­main the same. She said she voted for the con­tract to push ahead but “had a bad taste in her mouth”.

Cllr Rat­cliffe said the author­ity could have cho­sen to share ser­vices or work more closely with neigh­bour­ing coun­cils.

Cllr Martin Bur­foot also called for a rise in coun­cil tax in­stead of the charges, say­ing a coun­cil tax levy was less com­pli­cated to bring in.

He also feared recycling rates would go down as a re­sult of the pro­pos­als along with in­creases in fly-tip­ping.

The Dales district has the high­est recycling rates in Der­byshire at 57 per cent – the tar­get from gov­ern­ment is 60 per cent, and this could rise to 65 per cent.

Cllr Peter Slack said that when the cur­rent con­tract was first brought in, lots of res­i­dents were burn­ing ex­cess re­cy­clable waste in their gar­dens and “there was smoke ev­ery­where”.

He sus­pects the same could hap­pen again.

Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers said they were “hor­ri­fied” at the coun­cil tax hike sug­ges­tion. Cllr Vicky Massey-blood­worth said: “I am from a low-in­come house­hold and the thought of rais­ing tax would be much more ter­ri­fy­ing.”

Deputy leader Cllr Al­bert Catt said: “If they don’t want it they don’t have to sub­sidise oth­ers get­ting it.”

Cllr Garry Purdy said that a charge of a pound a week would be ac­cept­able.

Coun­cil leader Lewis Rose said: “The most im­por­tant thing for res­i­dents is ‘is my bin go­ing to be col­lected’?.

“It is a ser­vice which, to a cer­tain ex­tent, is taken for granted.

“I think this is the right step at this stage. It is a very, very im­por­tant ser­vice for our res­i­dents and we have to get it right.”

Cllr Colin Swindell said that pre­vi­ous is­sues with the cur­rent con­tract had been a real cause for con­cern, with refuse trucks knock­ing over walls and strug­gling to get to houses “in the back of beyond”.

Cllr Sue Bur­foot stated that this must have a se­ri­ous amount of con­sid­er­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly due to the lim­ited space for refuse ve­hi­cles to ac­cess houses on Mat­lock Bank.

She says emergency ser­vices can­not nav­i­gate many of these streets as it is.

I think this is the right step at this stage. It is a very, very im­por­tant ser­vice and we have to get it right. Cllr Lewis Rose

Der­byshire Dales Coun­cil is to put for­ward a se­ries of po­ten­tial changes, in­clud­ing chang­ing to four-weekly waste pick­ups and a range of charges for gar­den waste pick-ups from £25 up to £55 per year.

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