Weekly bin collections will cost Stoke-on-Trent £11m
RESTORING weekly rubbish collections could cost the city council up to £11 million – despite major financial backing from the Government.
The authority is to receive more than £14.3 million to build a hi-tech waste plant, which will automatically sort power-generating recycling from other rubbish.
It would help Stoke-on-Trent City Council reinstate weekly bin collections from 2014/15 for more than 88,200 households which currently have blue recycling and grey general waste bins emptied on alternate weeks.
The move would also slash the amount of waste sent to landfill and significantly improve recycling rates.
But city council officers estimate the waste plant alone will cost £20 million, leaving an £11 million funding gap.
It is already spending £30,000 on carrying out ground condition surveys at a 'former allotments' identified as a possible site for the plant, but has refused to reveal its location.
The council will bank £9 million toward the plant as part of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles' flagship weekly bin collection fund – in exchange for guaranteeing weekly collections for at least five years.
A further £538,000 will be provided to draw up a plan of action and find a firm to build the plant if plans go ahead.
The Government will also invest £4.7 million to pay for new bin wagons and cover the scheme's running costs for the first year.
Cabinet members last night agreed to accept the first phase of the Government grant and instructed officers to begin drawing up a business case for the plans.
Councillor Andy Platt, cabinet member for green enterprises and clean city, said: "We're delighted to have been chosen and this is an exciting step forward for us.
"Now cabinet has given the go-ahead we'll have a dedicated team which will begin to work on a detailed feasibility study into the scheme.
"We want to make Stoke-on-Trent a great working city and the place to bring business.
"Funding like this will not only help us on our way, but could see us become a leader in green energy worldwide."
The initial study will be funded entirely from the grant regardless of whether the council pulls out of the project in future – although no guarantees have been given the costs will not be clawed back by the Government.
As well as considering funding the £11 million itself, the authority may look at signing up a private sector partner.
It expects the additional £2.1 million annual cost of running a weekly waste collection to be offset by generating power at the plant and selling access to other councils.
Mr Pickles has warned councils they may face grant reductions if they do not provide weekly collections, which he described as a 'basic right.'
He added: "Weekly bin collections are one of the most visible frontline services and there is no plausible reason why councils should not deliver them to hard-working residents."