Council chiefs who are facing a public backlash over garden waste charges have rubbished claims they are wasting money.
Householders are to be charged a £30 annual fee from next year for the service after a decision last week by South Tyneside Council’s decision-making cabinet.
The charges aim to claw back £500,000 in savings for the cash-strapped local authority which says it intends to continue paying recycling giant SUEZ to take away the waste.
Opposition councillor Lee Hughes says the council should look again at its deal with the firm rather than charging residents.
The Independent – Putting People First councillor, said: “I don’t know what the agreement with SUEZ is but maybe we need to start looking at different contracts.
“I’ve recently changed the firm which collects my business waste and I’ve managed to save myself money. Why can’t the council do this?”
He added: “If people are going to get charged, about 90% of the residents I’ve spoken to say they can take the bins back because they won’t be paying.”
Town hall bosses insist that selling on the compost as an alternative means of raising funds was not ‘financially viable’.
It confirmed the waste is handed over to SUEZ - with whom the council has a long-term waste partnership agreement.
A South Tyneside Council Spokesperson said: “We follow a competitive tendering process according to relevant procurement legislation to ensure that we offer the best possible value for money to our taxpayers.
“Our contractor has made a business decision to tender for this work and the council have agreed the rate from them to process and compost the material from the borough.
“Our contractors SUEZ will continue to provide the same service which not only processes green waste collected from residents but also includes that deposited at the recycling village.
“Commercial composting is a resource intensive and expensive process and it is not currently financially viable for the council to operate a scheme itself.
“Due to unprecedented funding cuts from central government, we simply cannot continue to provide the status quo.
“The Council has no legal responsibility to provide a green waste collection service.
“Householders who do not wish to pay for this service in the future can take their waste to the recycling village at Middlefields or compost their own green waste at home.”
The controversial scheme will be rolled out in the borough next year and the £30 charge will see garden wast collected every fortnight from April to October.
A discount rate of £25 will be offered to those who sign up before December 31 and anyone who wants to pay for three years in advance can do so for £65 – a saving of £25 over the period.
In a Gazette poll, 90% of readers said they would not be taking advantage of the paid-for service.
A spokeman for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said: “SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has no influence over arrangements for the collection of green waste in South Tyneside, which is wholly the responsibility of the local authority.”