Free garden waste collections across Colchester could be axed as part of plans to balance the books, it has been revealed.

A new yearly fee of £50 will be introduced in October if the plans are rubber stamped by Colchester Council bosses next week.

It comes as the council faces a £3 million budget gap in 2021/2022.

The council needs to find new sources of income to meet the "significant saving requirements" posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A report shows it was expected to cost £1 million to run the garden waste service in 2022/23.

Under the plans the council would set up a paid-for subscription for fortnightly collections.

The scheme, which will be named Garden Club, would see residents have to fork out £25 for each 240-litre brown wheelie bin and membership.

There would then be an annual £50 renewal fee.

Residents will be able to cut the cost by joining with a neighbour.

Those who choose not to opt into the scheme would have to take their garden waste to a recycling centre or sign up to compost at home.

Councillors will consider the report at a scrutiny panel meeting, on Tuesday, and at cabinet a day later.

If given the green light the first full year of the scheme would begin in April 2021.

Where using wheelie bins is not physically possible due to the street or property, compostable or reusable sacks will be provided.

Martin Goss, the council's waste boss, said: “These new proposals give our residents a choice.

"The Government makes it clear that garden waste collections are an extra service which we do not have to provide.

"However, we want to maintain and improve the service, giving people a choice of options, but ultimately, contributing £1 a week to the cost of collection.

“We’ve looked closely at what other councils do in putting these proposals together to ensure the service offer and pricing provides good value for money and is affordable.

“Many councils give residents no choice at all, but we have worked hard to develop a range of options for residents.

"A subscription service with added extras is just one option, you can also share a Garden Club collection with your neighbour, get a cheap composter bin to compost your waste at home, or look at joining a community compost scheme.

"We are also working with garden centres and companies to give residents a range of offers, involving free seeds or discounts when they join the Garden Club service.”