The Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson has warned that the Council’s Labour led Administration will not back the further roll out of a kerbside recycling scheme introduced by the previous Conservative SNP Administration unless changes are made to cut costs.
Members of the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee today considered a report that highlighted the fact that the new kerbside recycling scheme introduced last year as a pilot in Wigtownshire had cost the council £435,000 more than forecast.
Councillor Nicholson believes the previous Administration did not think through the implications of the new scheme for the Council’s existing waste collection PFI when they pushed through the pilot scheme currently running in Wigtownshire and failed to put a cap on costs. He also accused SNPs councillors of hypocrisy for now criticising a scheme they introduced as a result of orders from the SNP Scottish Government.
At today’s meeting of the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Councillors agreed to an Action Plan to reduce the budget overspend and to bring forward options to be considered for a roll-out of the source separated collection service to the rest of the region. However, Councillor Nicholson told the meeting there would be no roll out on his watch, until the reduction in costs had been agreed and that all options should be looked at including changing the scheme.
A botched attempt by SNP Councillors at the meeting to ask Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) to carry out a review of the scheme failed after representatives of ZWS in attendance at the meeting pointed out that was not their role. The SNP also called for the involvement of the council’s external auditors, but embarrassingly the move was slated by one of their own Councilors at the meeting and that call was hastily withdrawn.
Councillor Nicholson said: “I appreciate that the SNP Government forced the previous Conservative SNP council Administration to introduce a household recycling scheme by bringing in new regulations and at the end of the day recycling is more environmentally friendly. The scheme in Wigtownshire has also been well used. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that when the previous Administration agreed to this particular scheme they didn’t properly think through the consequences”.
“Firstly, the council has a 25 year waste PFI with Shanks centred around a certain level of waste going to the Eco deco plant. That level of waste clearly won’t be going to the Eco Deco plant anymore due to recycling, so the whole contract has to be renegotiated at huge cost to the council”.
“Secondly, when the new scheme was introduced I am astonished the previous Administration did not put a cap on spending, or at the very least insist that if an overspend looked likely, it should be reported back to councillors for action to be taken before any extra money is spent. You expect some teething troubles when a new, radical approach is taken and that can add to costs but not to this level”.
“I am pleased Councillors backed the Action Plan to overhaul the current scheme and bring it back into budget and if that means changes to the scheme so be it. But that doesn’t go far enough yet. This Administration will not make the same mistake as the previous one by supporting the roll out of the current scheme to other areas unless better financial controls are put in place and that means for example no money being spent outwith budget unless it has been directly agreed by Councillors.”
“I have to say that the public are likely to level accusations of hypocrisy at SNP councillors who on the one hand are complaining about the scheme but on the other hand voted to introduce it, partly because their own Government gave them no choice. I hope they now have the decency to hold their hands up and admit they got it wrong. However, I’m not holding my breath given that SNP councillors were arguing amongst themselves at the meeting and embarrassingly withdrew their own motion calling for external auditors to look into the scheme because it was slated by members of their own group”.
The Council Leader also warned that further Scottish Government changes through a new ‘Charter for Household Recycling in Scotland’ reported to the Committee could lead to even more draconian rules on recycling.
Councillor Nicholson added, “The SNP Scottish Government is utterly obsessed by central control and that means more changes are coming such as a ban on any side waste in bags beside wheelie bins and possibly even instructing councils not to collect wheelie bins if it contains any recyclable materials. We need to ensure the implications of those central dictats by the SNP are taken into account before we extend any recycling scheme to other parts of Dumfries and Galloway”.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
The report that went before members of the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee today (28 September) including details of the new controversial Charter for Household Recycling in Scotland’ (Appendix 3) can be seen here:-