AN MP has said Vale Royal Borough Council were 'downright dishonest' in its explanations over why a fort-nightly collection of household waste was necessary.
Mike Hall (Lab, Weaver Vale) made the comments about Vale Royal's kerbside recycling scheme in an adjournment debate in Parliament.
He told the House of Commons last Thursday afternoon that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat-controlled council had introduced changes to its refuse collection service 'under the guise of meeting Government recycling targets'.
He said the response to Vale Royal's consultation exercise, asking people whether they would be willing to take part in a kerbside recycling scheme, was an 'overwhelming 'yes'.'
He continued: 'However, the local authority did not clearly spell out - it was mentioned only in the small print - that the ordinary domestic refuse collection service would be reduced from a weekly collection to a fortnightly one.
'There is uproar in my constituency about the decision.'
He said his constituents had raised their concerns with Vale Royal, 'but the authority says that it will not respond to letters of complaint or register phone calls as complaints because my constituents are raising nothing new. That is the wrong way for the local authority to approach the problem: instead, it should try to explain to the people living in Weaver Vale and the Vale Royal Borough Council area why the new system will be put in place. However, its explanations so far have been confusing and, in some ways, downright dishonest.'
Mr Hall said Vale Royal had to meet stringent recycling targets set by the Government by 2007.
He continued: '(Vale Royal) says that if the local authority does not meet the targets it will face a fine of £120,000 a day or £44m a year. That is abject nonsense: no fines are imposed under the scheme.
'The Government have said that if recycling does not remove the amount of material going to landfill, the price of landfill may increase, and if a local authority overtips its quota, it may have to pay more money. By no stretch of the imagination will that result in a fine of £120,000 a day.
'When those explanations were challenged the local authority said: 'We have to do this, otherwise we will have to go back to a weekly recycling collection, which will cost us an extra £1m'. Therein lies the answer to the problem: the authority has cut the domestic refuse collection to save money. It now says that if it returns to a weekly service, people will not recycle. What nonsense! The local authority should say that it will look again at the issue.'
Mr Hall asked minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Alun Michael to look into whether local authorities are obliged to collect side rubbish, which Vale Royal refuses to do.
'When it is left, it attracts vermin and it is spread across the neighbourhood,' said Mr Hall. 'That leads to a greater incidence of fly-tipping, and we have an unsatisfactory state of affairs.'
Speaking in May, Malcolm Gaskill, the Liberal Democrat representative for Winsford Swanlow, lead councillor for waste management and deputy leader of the council, said one of the reasons why Vale Royal would not revert back to a weekly collection was because 'You will not hit the targets, you will not hit the percentages the Government has determined by 2010. You are going to get fined £120,000-a-day across Cheshire. That money will directly impinge on the Council Tax-payers.'
Mr Hall also questioned if Vale Royal was meeting its requirements under the Environmental Act over incidents of not collecting side waste. He told fellow MPs: 'When a bin is put out, the authority will not collect any surplus rubbish that is placed in black bin bags, which is termed 'side rubbish'. Section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires a local authority to collect domestic waste without charge.
He said: 'Will the Minister explore with his colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether there is an obligation on a local authority to collect side rubbish?' - domestic rubbish placed at the side of a wheelie bin.' When it is left, it attracts vermin and it is spread across the neighbourhood. That leads to a greater incidence of fly-tipping, and we have an unsatisfactory state of affairs.'
A council spokesman said: 'Vale Royal Borough Council is disappointed about the comments made by Mike Hall MP in the House of Commons. These are serious allegations and we will be issuing a full response to stakeholders. This statement will be made available to the media.'