COLCHESTER Council has paused plans to introduce fees for residents’ garden waste collections following criticism from residents.

The council’s cabinet discussed plans to create a new Garden Club on Wednesday.

The move would have meant from October residents who wanted the service would pay £25 for each 240-litre brown wheelie bin and a £50 annual renewal fee for collections.

It would raise roughly £1 million a year for the council’s coffers and help meet the expected budget shortfall caused by coronavirus.

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However, following a recommendation from scrutiny committee, cabinet members unanimously voted to defer the Waste and Recycling New Strategic Priority report to be examined by a cross-party task and finish group, which will investigate the green waste services and wider use of wheelie bins.

No measures will be put in place until the group has made recommendations to cabinet and full council.

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Martin Goss, councillor responsible for waste, environment and transportation, said the council was listening to the public.

He said: “We are all disappointed at Government failure to provide on its commitment to financially support local authorities and avoid additional charges, possible redundancies and cuts in services.

“I am delighted there is an opportunity for councillors from all parties to now be able to properly scrutinise the green waste collection and use of wheelie bins.

“It is important residents are heard so priorities of services and cuts during these difficult times are responsive to their wishes.”

Council leader Mark Cory said at the meeting: “The Government has rowed back on what it was set to give us.

“So this is one of the areas where we are going to have to be honest with the public where we are going to have to have service cuts or services we need to think honestly about. We are listening to scrutiny who have asked us to pause the paper for now.”

The task and finish group will also examine the council’s recovery budget and cabinet will lobby for further funding.

David King, councillor responsible for business and resources, said: "

Cllr David King, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, added: “We are a low-tax authority now. We will still be a low-tax authority if we have a garden waste service charge. However, I welcome the pause for the opportunity it gives us to help raise awareness.

“Our approach is not about raising extra money. We will need to cut costs and jobs at least harm to services, to balance the books. It will be great to have cross-party support through the Task and Finish Group and to have them join us in lobbying Government for the money they have yet to provide.”

Garden waste charges have proved controversial amongst residents and Stephen Chambers, 35, of Marks Tey, set up a petition against the plans.

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More than 800 people have signed.