Free special uplifts return, as residents are quizzed on bins

Published: 5 Apr 2013 09:307 comments

FREE special waste uplifts have been re-introduced in East Lothian - in the same week that householders are being asked for their views on scrapping weekly domestic bin collections.

East Lothian Council's bulky waste collection service returned on Monday, offering the collection of large household items.

Charges for the service - ranging from £22.50 to £70 - had been introduced by the council's previous SNP/Lib Dem administration in July 2009.

A report in December 2011 showed that cases of fly-tipping had nearly doubled since the charges had been brought in.

But those have now been scrapped by the authority's current Labour/Conservative/independent administration - Labour having pledged to do so in its election manifesto last May.

However, collections must be booked and residents have been warned they may wait "much longer than expected" due to an expected initial rush of requests.

A council statement said: "You can book a bulky waste collection by calling 01875 824305 or you can book a collection at a local area office.

"There are, however, only a limited number of slots available each week and you may find that you have to wait for much longer than expected before a collection slot is available to book.

"You may also be allocated more than one collection date depending on the number and type of items you want uplifted; we carry out separate recycling collections for fridge-freezers and metal items."

The return of free uplifts has been branded "bizarre" by the council's SNP Group.

Councillor Stuart Currie, leader, said: "We had previously been told that re-introducing free special uplifts would cost about £600,000 or £700,000 a year.

"But the administration's budget [in February] only had £60,000 allocated for free special uplifts.

"There seems to be some issue that it won't be re-instating all special uplifts; you will have to wait quite a long time to get a special uplift.

"It seems a bit bizarre."

Councillor Willie Innes (Lab), council leader, said: "It was a budget decision to take away the charge and that is the position as of April 1.

"We said in the manifesto we would do away with the charging and that's what we've done.

"What the SNP are imagining isn't anything to do with me."

Meanwhile, a council survey on waste and recycling is asking county residents how they would feel about fortnightly domestic bin collections.

As reported in the Courier in November, the local authority's administration has admitted it could scrap weekly domestic rubbish collections as one of a number of proposals being considered in response to new food collection legislation.

The seven-question survey was being distributed to households across East Lothian from Tuesday.

As well as questions on the current fortnightly collection of items for recycling, it asks: "In some parts of Scotland, rubbish is collected one week and recycling the next. This means your green rubbish bin is emptied every other week.

"How would you feel if this system was introduced here?"

The survey also asks: "The Scottish Government require most households to be provided with a separate food waste collection by 2016.

"If you could still have your food waste collected weekly would you be satisfied for your green rubbish bin to be emptied every second week?"

Mr Innes told the Courier: "We know that things have to change because the legislation is changing - we are going to have to collect food waste separately.

"I don't think we could possibly have a fortnightly food collection, we would have to have a weekly food collection - so the current weekly collection would still go ahead, in a sense.

"I think it's about how we manage the whole process, given we will be collecting food waste every week.

"That's two collections every week, plus recycling collections, and that, financially, might be beyond us."

Residents' views will be fed into a future decision over rubbish collections, Mr Innes added.

However, Mr Currie said: "We put a three-year budget proposal to the council in February which didn't include a requirement to cut costs in terms of weekly rubbish collections.

"Even elsewhere in Scotland where they have food waste and other collections, they still have weekly bin collections.

"People pay their council tax and a lot of people expect at the very least to have their bin collected each week.

"I would urge people who receive the survey to fill it in and make clear what their views are."

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