Controversial garden waste charges in Moray have raked in an above-budget haul despite getting off to a slow start.
The £36 annual fees were introduced last year as the authority struggled to close a £10million budget gap.
Fears were raised in March last year that the scheme may not be as successful as hoped due to the 30% sign-up rate being below target.
However, now the latest figures have revealed that the total has soared to about 45% with 20,300 permits being sold – securing £65,000 more than the initial budget target of £669,000.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter said he believes the strong sign-up rates are due to the reasons being explained to locals.
He said: “Broadly speaking, I think people have understood the need for it – it isn’t a service that we are required to provide but one which we will still provide for a reasonable charge.
“With it being the first year of operation there was a bit of ‘best guess’ on what the uptake would be based on experience elsewhere, which has been not too far off.
“The number of permits sold will obviously help us protect more services and deal with further budget pressures going forward.”
The introduction of the permit scheme led to local gardening clubs promoting composting at home to help residents circumvent the fee.
The need for the collection is also likely to be lower for those who live in flats, have shared gardens or who choose to dispose of the garden waste themselves.
Moray Council has already decided to increase its annual charge for a permit to £40, which is the same as the current Highland Council fee despite the service there being suspended between November and March.
The permits have been created in Moray as part of an effort by the authority to generate extra income to reduce the amount of savings required.
The introduction of the garden waste charge will be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting of the authority’s audit and scrutiny committee.
A report noted there were variances between the income generated and permit but described the differences as “within acceptable limits”.