An eight week consultation is underway to hear the public’s views on a series of proposed “cost-saving and future growth measures” to make Buckinghamshire’s County Council’s household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) affordable for the future.
The ten centres are well used and extremely popular, the County Council says, however it is having to reduce costs across all its services as funding reductions in the public sector “continue to bite”.
National figures show that in comparison with other areas, Buckinghamshire has a much higher number of sites serving its population, the County Council says. In addition, centres currently take certain waste like rubble, soil, plasterboard and car tyres for free where other Councils make a variety of disposal charges.
Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, Bill Chapple OBE (pictured) said the review was a “reluctant but necessary step”.
He said: “We have an extremely tough budget to meet from April 2019 onwards and this means facing up to some difficult decisions. There definitely needs to be changes, but my overall aim is to retain a service that still works for the majority of people going forward.
“Looking at all the data available, the responses to our user surveys and what other councils do, and bearing in mind the views of residents at four focus groups we held in July, there are some preferred options that we are setting out in the consultation. Realistically, without these, we’re not going to get anywhere near our financial savings target.
“We have an extremely tough budget to meet from April 2019 onwards and this means facing up to some difficult decisions. There definitely needs to be changes, but my overall aim is to retain a service that still works for the majority of people going forward.”
“For example, there is a proposal to permanently close at least one site, with the preferred option being Bledlow. We are also including other proposals for closing two sites, Bledlow and Burnham, and to bring in selected weekday closures on days when the sites at Burnham, Chesham and Aylesbury (Rabans Lane) are less used.
“We’re also proposing to introduce charging at all sites for specific waste that we don’t legally have to accept for free.
“I completely understand that people don’t like being faced with extra charges, however, I have taken into account the fact that less than a third of waste falls into this category, so the charges won’t affect everyone and it also brings us into line with what other councils do.
“Of course, there are other areas where we have genuine choice and that’s where an open and honest consultation is so important. For example, we’re looking for views on which two weekdays people would prefer Burnham (if this site remains open), Chesham and Aylesbury (Rabans Lane) to be closed on, and also what Buckinghamshire residents think about people from outside the county using our recycling centres, which is of course an extra cost to local county taxpayers.”
The Council also plans to extend the operation of reuse shops (currently at Aston Clinton and High Wycombe and run by South Bucks Hospice) so more can be recycled and sold with the money going to charity.
Bill added: “I hope people will see the reasons for the changes we propose to bring in and I look forward to hearing views on the areas where there is genuine and open choice.”
The consultation runs until midnight on Monday, October 22. Access to the online survey and supporting information is available atwww.buckscc.gov.uk/hrc-review A series of drop-in events is also planned in local libraries so people can find out more details about the proposals.
Following the consultation, final decisions are expected to be made by the Cabinet later in the year.