War of words at town hall over fortnightly waste collections

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A CONTROVERSIAL move to cut Sheffield’s waste collections from weekly to fortnightly is set to be discussed at a full council meeting next week.

The opposition Liberal Democrat group has put a motion to next Wednesday’s meeting to recommend making use of the coalition Government’s £250m fund, which is available to help English councils keep or restore weekly bin collections.

However, the ruling Labour group says that, even if the council does take Government cash of around £2.5m, this would go little way towards the £12m cost of keeping weekly bin collections over the next five years. A waste review has recently been carried out by the authority, and a report on the outcome of that review will be published next month.

The council’s Cabinet committee will then decide on the future of Sheffield’s waste collections.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “Despite the Lib Dems’ false claims, Labour has never had an agenda to move to fortnightly bin collections.

“Our only agenda is to find the best way of delivering the waste service, whilst providing value for money for local taxpayers.

“We would welcome any financial support from the Government to help fund the waste service, which costs far more than the council can now afford due to the £220m of Government cuts.

“However, as with all Government announcements the devil is in the detail.

“The cost of guaranteeing to keep weekly bin collections for the next five years is in the region of £12m.

“Early indications suggest that the money that the Government will give the council towards this cost is around £2.5m.

“Clearly this would leave a massive shortfall for the local taxpayer to pick up.”

Coun Bramall added that he is writing to the Government for further details of the scheme and the result of this will then be considered alongside the report of the waste review.

However, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Lib Dem group on Sheffield Council, accused the Labour group of trying to “hide behind the excuse of cost for bringing in their fortnightly bin collection plan.”

He said: “Labour’s waste consultation was a disaster thanks to the loaded questions, small response rate and unacceptable proposals such as ending the assisted collections service.

“What’s more, it was predicated on moving to fortnightly collections to save money, which now isn’t required as the coalition Government are providing the funds.

“Liberal Democrats will be voting for weekly collections to stay through making use of the new national £250m fund.

“If Labour councillors vote this proposal down and turn away these extra funds, Sheffielders will know that they can expect to see fortnightly bin collections soon.”

Meanwhile, Sheffield Council and Veolia, the contractor which carries out the authority’s waste collections, have together launched a campaign to try to boost the recycling rates in the city.

Doorstepping teams will be out and about over the next six weeks, speaking to residents to offer advice on what can and cannot be recycled.

They will also be explaining issues such as the need to separate paper and card from other recyclables such as glass, plastic bottles and cans.

Coun Bramall said: “This personal contact with residents will help us explain the benefits of recycling.

“We want to ensure that as much as possible is being recycled by encouraging those currently not using the service to do so and to help those unsure as to what they can recycle to get the information they need.”

Coun Bramall added: “I hope that everyone will take this opportunity to talk to the Veolia representatives.”