COLCHESTER Council’s business boss has defended the authority’s move to axe free garden waste collections, saying the authority faces an economic emergency “like no other”.

The council is set to discuss plans to introduce a new yearly fee of £50 for the service at meetings this week.

If approved, the new fees will come into force from October and mean residents pay £25 for each 240-litre brown wheelie bin and a £50 annual renewal fee for the new Garden Club.

The move has been met with anger from residents and opposition councillors, however, business and resources boss David King said the move would raise £1 million a year for the council’s other services.

Mr King said: “This is an emergency like no other. No-one likes to pay extra. We understand this. This is why we have have so often not raised council tax. We are a low tax authority. But it is a balance.

“Most residents understand the huge crisis they see around them. Crucial services have and will be needed, and it is fair we ask they make a small contribution if they want the service, like two in three other local authorities.”

Mr King said the council is set to lose £12 million this year alone, around 60 per cent of its total budget, with further losses to come.

The Government has committed to covering 75p in every pound of councils’ losses, after the first five per cent is absorbed, however, at best Colchester Council expects to be 40 per cent down.

Mr King said: “They will cover part of losses and extra costs, but this year only. They are walking away.

“Without giving us the ability to borrow to pay our way like they can, they give us the responsibility to help rising demand with less money. They insist - balance the books or go broke.

“We will not, if, we do three things. Cut our costs and services, dig deep into our reserves and keep digging and raise income where we can.”

Mr King said without changes to garden waste services, actions like staff redundancies,would be inevitable.

“The charge allows us to modernise the service and reduce muscular and skeletal injuries by more use of wheelie bins,” he said.

“And it is feels fairer to ask those who want the service to pay that £1 a week than ask everyone to pay extra council tax.”