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Fortnightly bin collections could still be introduced in Southend, despite council bosses initially backtracking on their plans.
Southend Council had proposed to introduce wheelie bins to town, and for rubbish and recycling to be collected on alternate weeks, only to instead decide to invite companies to bid for the waste contract.
But bosses now admit that this could still lead to fortnightly collections.
Defending the council’s change of heart at a place scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “It has to be an open market exercise. We want to have everybody who wants to bid to do so.”
Pushed to make weekly collections a mandatory requirement for the bid, Cllr Mulroney added: “We will be focusing on the outcomes and the bidders will come forward with their solutions, but we’ve made it very clear that we want them to look at our current regime and the viability of maintaining it.”
Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, rounded on Cllr Mulroney after the council initially tried to debate the issue in private, without the press or public present.
He said: “You’ve had two and a half years to discuss it. What changed in the last 72 hours?
“I’ll tell you. Backlash at the proposals. Backlash that you wanted the entire paper discussed behind closed doors, to have it all discussed in private where you couldn’t talk about a wheelie bin or a weekly waste collection.
“There is more transparency with the politburo in North Korea.”
Kevin Buck, Conservative councillor for Prittlewell ward, said he was “not necessarily against fortnightly collections.”
But he added: “What I would rather see is a transitional service that actually improves recycling first using weekly collections that can then demonstrate that it can transition and move to fortnightly rather than just using fortnightly as a blunt tool to penalise those that already recycle.”
Southend currently recycles just 44 per cent of waste. Every one per cent of waste that does not go to landfill saves local taxpayers around £120,000 a year.