“A LOST opportunity” was how a Tory policy was described which will allow residents to continue having weekly bin collections but will result in less rubbish being recycled.
Chester Liberal Democrats, who “called-in” the Town Hall decision, claimed council-tax payers would also fork out more than £750,000 extra a year compared with a fortnightly collection aimed at recycling a greater percentage of household waste.
But the Conservatives are sticking by their decision to award the £18m seven-year contract to existing contractor Focsa which will see more rubbish buried in the ground, resulting in larger releases of the greenhouse gas methane.
Lib Dem environment spokesman Cllr Andrew Garman (Lib Dem, Kelsall) told the environment scrutiny committee that choosing option two to retain weekly collections meant more damage to the planet.
He said: “Going for option two would therefore yield more than 2,500 extra tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is the equivalent to the footprint of around 250 homes or equivalent to insulating 1,250 homes every year. It puts our meagre insulation grants into perspective.”
Cllr Garman said the Tories’ chosen path would yield a recycling rate of 38%, which was below the government target for next year, whereas other options would take that figure as high as 46%.
He added: “Once Chester led the way on recycling – it then became average – now this administration seems happy for Chester to be among the laggards, just scraping the government targets as they increase step by step.”
Cllr Garman dismissed the Tories’ claim that it was simply carrying out the public’s wishes following a consultation. He argued the exercise was “flawed” because of the low response rate and said people were not given all the facts about the cost to the council tax payer and the recycling rates associated with the various options.
Cllr Graham Proctor (Lib Dem, Vicars Cross) said Chester’s policy would “not mesh in” with the policies of Ellesmere Port and Vale Royal, which operate fortnightly collections, when the authorities merged with the county to form Cheshire West and Chester Council on April 1 next year.
Cllr Mia Jones (Lib Dem, Dodleston) said: “I feel we have really lost an opportunity here, particularly as we are moving into a new unitary regime.”
Cllr Jill Houlbrook (Con, Upton Grange), executive member for the environment, said Cllr Garman’s arguments should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.
She added: “We should give residents credit for knowing what a weekly collection means, and recycling, and what it means to this city. To say that if we introduce weekly collections it won’t improve recycling rates does our residents a disservice.”
Cllr Houlbrook said the council administration was implementing what residents said they wanted in the consultation.
She said: “The Lib Dems don’t believe in local people power. The implication is that whatever residents tell us, we should ignore what they want us to do and go our own sweet way.”