YORK householders could face higher charges for rubbish collection as the city council struggles to balance its books.
City of York Council currently charges only for extra garden waste collections and gives homes in York a free fortnightly collection, but a report suggests new charges could be used to plug gaps in budgets.
On Wednesday, councillors agreed to set up a task group to look at discretionary waste charging for areas such as garden waste, bulky rubbish and household waste taken to the tip, as well as waste services for schools and charities.
Although no formal proposals have yet been put forward, councillors are to look at options to make the council more money.
In a fractious meeting of the community safety overview and scrutiny committee, councillors questioned officials on the possibility of cutting down regular waste collections, and spoke out against what they saw as unpopular policies being attributed to their committee.
The topic had earlier come up in a meeting of the committee in March, when they discussed a reviewing the council's commercial waste services and shortfalls in its income.
But after suggestions from a senior officer, the focus of the review moved to discretionary waste charges and now the scrutiny committee could look into waste charges at other councils, to guide possible ideas for York.
Although councils are legally bound to collect normal household rubbish as a public health matter, officials told the councillors that there are no restrictions on how often bins are emptied.
Assistant director of transport, highways and waste Neil Ferris said: "It's a matter of public record that a number of local authorities in Scotland have moved to three-weekly collections. This report is about discretionary waste charging but officers are looking at all options to achieve £2.5 million in savings."
He also told the councillors about other councils which charge householders for all their garden waste collections, and said many do not provide free rubbish collections for charities meaning some organisations travel to York specifically to get rid of their waste at council run tips.
Labour's Cllr Gerard Hodgson questioned those proposals, and said: "I would be very concerned if we were to charge St Leonard's Hospice, which is in my ward. Charities are already struggling enough on a very tight budget."
The proposals also drew criticism from Conservative Cllr Paul Healey, who warned the officers about relying on discretionary charging to make up for the £2.5 million funding shortfall over two years. Domestic waste collections currently make the council £154,000 per year, he said, so are unlikely to make a serious dent in the funding problems.
Independent councillor Mark Warters rubbished the plans, and refused to take part in the task group saying: "I don't want to be used as a shield for controversial discretionary waste charges."
Labour councillor Ken King also refused to take part in the review, saying it was for officers to come up with proposals and councillors to scrutinise them.
Speaking after the meeting, the council's head of waste services Geoff Derham stressed that no proposals have yet been put forward.
He added: "This meeting was simply to agree a framework to review charges. Nothing at all has yet been decided. Once the task group has undertaken its review, this will then be taken back to the scrutiny committee at a later date to consider.”