Temporary reductions in bin collections brought in by Moray Council to cope with the coronavirus pandemic could be poised to become permanent.
Pick-ups of glass, paper, plastic and can recycling were cut from every two weeks to three weeks in the early days of lockdown last year.
Now financial officers at Moray Council have recommended the reduction is included as part of budget cuts to balance the books.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter said the bin collections reduction had not caused major issues since they were introduced across Moray last year – but added that larger bins will be made available for families who have struggled.
Reduced bin collections have been ‘broadly successful’
However, concerns have been raised that the change may still be a step too far for some households.
Mr Leadbitter said: “The three-weekly collections have broadly gone pretty well.
“There have been some cases where households have struggled due to the size of their bin and, where there’s a good reason, larger bins will be made available.
“The reduction is a significant saving, both in financial terms and environmentally because it means the vehicles are doing fewer miles, which will mean less carbon emissions.”
Moray Council estimates the potential reduction, which will be debated by councillors on Wednesday, in bin collections will save about £125,000.
Concerns some Moray households will struggle with bin collections cut
The change will mean one fewer vehicle is needed to complete rounds across the region.
A reduction in three members of staff is expected to be filled by not filling existing vacancies.
Tim Eagle, leader of Moray Council’s Conservative group, is concerned about the cut being introduced while the coronavirus lockdown is still underway.
He said: “I am not surprised to see this budget saving in front of council.
“However, not everyone has space to store three large bins or handle the weight of them. It is absolutely vital therefore that the council engage with the public on this before any firm decision can be made.”
“For the SNP to throw a decision like this into the mix in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown with no prior consultation or discussion and with just one paragraph of information is a little alarming.”
Moray Council says it can make up to 350 blue and pink bins with a capacity of 240 litres, nearly double the current size of 140 litres, available on a first-come first-served basis.
Meanwhile, other budget proposals due to be tabled this week include increasing the cost of a garden waste brown bin permit from by £1 to £41 – an increase which could generate an extra £88,000 per year.
Pandemic has increased savings target for Moray Council
Financial bosses estimate savings totalling £3.2 million will be required to balance the 2021/22 budget.
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the spending gap by about £1.2m with officers budgeting for a possible 3% increase in council tax.
In a report, chief financial officer Lorraine Paisey has warned “considerable uncertainty” remains about the future funding situation.
She said: “The level of grant funding from Scottish Government was originally assumed to be flat cash. This is not a sustainable level of funding.
“The recent UK spending review resulted in consequentials for the devolved administration and the current assumptions used for funding is for a 1% increase in core funding, ie not including new burdens or Covid-19 related funding.
“However, given current economic uncertainties this might be considered to be optimistic.”