Mar 7 2013 by Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser
BLUE recycling bins will be offered to all residents across the borough, with £360,000 allocated in this year's budget to get the scheme off the ground.
Council tax was also frozen for the fourth successive year at a meeting to decide on the council's budget for 2013/14 on Wednesday night.
Last October, the council agreed on a series of cost-cutting measures in its Major Service Review to plug a £600,000 budget gap.
The cutbacks agreed include the closure of community centres and Ormskirk Civic Hall in 2014, unless they can be transferred to user ownership.
The cost savings had left a budget gap of £109,000.
But the report that went before councillors at last week’s meeting revealed a £147,000 surplus after the council received £393,000 through a New Homes Bonus grant, rather than the expected estimate of £110,000.
That resulted in a total funding of £347,000 available for new budget issues going into the meeting.
The £360,000 blue bins capital project – £221,000 from the budget surplus and the rest from a projected revenue underspend – was revealed at the meeting as the council gears up to offer them to all borough residents. Cllr David Westley, portfolio holder for finance, said the bins – which will replace the current kerbside blue boxes – would be rolled out over the next two years.
Cllr Westley said: “The blue boxes have been successful but there are issues with insufficient capacity and they are susceptible to strong winds.
“Wheelie bins provide an increased capacity for residents.
“The plan is to roll [them] out over the next two years but hopefully a bit quicker.”
Residents will be given the choice of receiving a new wheelie bin or retaining their current blue box.
The figure represents half of the estimated cost of the entire scheme – with 75% of the borough’s population expected to take up the option of a new bin.
There will be an initial pilot scheme launched in each of the area’s four collection zones.
Once the final uptake on the scheme is worked out the council will undertake a tendering exercise with funding for the remaining cost to be decided at the medium term budget review.
But Cllr Liz Savage, Labour’s shadow portfolio holder for transformation and resources, criticised the decision to only allocate half the funding at this stage – saying the Labour group had costed proposals for a similar scheme at £680,000 paid over eight years, with allowances for an 80% take up rate.
She said: “They are committing the council to long- term spending without showing where they will find the money.”
Other schemes announced at the meeting included a £100,000 project to address drainage issues at Abbey Lane, see Page 8, environmental projects including around £10,000 to create a new entrance feature at Burscough’s Richmond Park, and £24,000 for a project to improve the area around Skelmersdale war memorial.
Meanwhile, a project to fund up to £1m of improvements to the council's commercial properties was green-lit, with the aim of creating jobs by attracting new businesses to the area.
The borough’s freezing of council tax means most households will pay less, as Lancashire County Council has reduced its precept by 2%. The fire authority has frozen its precept while the police authority has increased its precept by 1.99%.
Some areas will also include a parish council precept.
The bills for “average” Band D properties (excluding parish council precepts) will drop from £1,505.43 to £1,486.25.
The Labour group welcomed the freeze, but Cllr Liz Savage said welfare reforms would see some residents experiencing an increase of 22% in their council tax: “I’m greatly concerned that the council will experience higher rates of non-payment of council tax this year.”
The council tax breakdown for your area is shown in the table, top right.