DEPUTY Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg says Sheffield should have waited for details of Government financial support for weekly bin collections before deciding to switch to fortnightly collections.
He said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would announce in a few weeks more information about how the Government would distribute £250m to authorities: “Labour should have waited to see what it would mean for Sheffield.”
And Mr Clegg, who said contact with constituents was now dominated by the bins controversy, added he was taken aback by the city’s proposed halting of the garden waste collection.
“I find it a bizarre decision. It is bad enough saying you are going to stop collecting rubbish every week but Labour is also saying we are not going to help you recycle. It’s a double whammy.”
The Lib Dems are keeping up the pressure over the proposed switch to fornightly black bin collections, due to take place later in the year.
They say local taxpayers could face previously hidden costs of more than £1m if the change is made because the council’s waste contractor Veolia is entitled to ‘cost of change’ payments.
This would require the council to meet costs such as redundancy payments for the estimated 40 staff who would lose their job and the cancelling of leases on waste wagons, negating much of the £2.4m due to be saved next year.
Local Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “When you also consider that Labour councillors are pressing ahead with their plan despite the £250m Government fund on offer, it is becoming increasingly obvious weekly collections could be kept if there was the political will within the Town Hall.”
But Labour deputy leader Coun Bryan Lodge said: “I have no knowledge of the figures that the Lib Dems are talking about. The detailed costs of introducing this change are not yet known, and are subject to agreement with Veolia.
“The most significant and regrettable cost associated with this change is likely to be that of redundancy and a provision is made for this within the overall budget proposals.”
Labour says savings have to be made in the waste contract because the Government is forcing Sheffield to make £170m of cuts over the next four years.
It has consistently questioned the exact level of potential Government financial support and decided to press ahead with fortnightly collections in the absence of any firm commitments.
Local leader Coun Julie Dore said: “What people will be left with is still a weekly collection – they will just have to separate their waste into recycling one week, waste the other.”
She added: “Out of almost 2,000 replies to my letter asking about what the council should protect during the budget process, only 600 people mentioned bins. That leaves a large number of people who feel we are right.
“We are in a very difficult time and we have to consider everyone’s interests – including those of the elderly and vulnerable – and make cuts which impact the least on people’s quality of life.”
lThe Lib Dems say no garden waste collections are planned for the rest of the financial year.
Deputy leader Coun Colin Ross, who represents Dore and Totley, said: “I have several green bags full of winter garden waste. I know many local residents in my ward do too, just like hundreds of other keen recyclers across Sheffield.
“The green sacks were handed out on the proviso that the council would collect them back in for recycling. For Labour councillors to break this promise at the drop of a hat is deeply unfair.”