With Colchester Council considering a possible charge for collecting garden waste, councillors will be thinking back to the last time such plans were floated.

The council could re-introduce the controversial plans as part of a bid to balance its books over the coming year.

The authority’s cabinet is set to examine its budget for the coming year at a meeting on January 25.

The budget – which includes a council tax rise of £6.12 – unveiled a range of planned savings.

While the budget is balanced for the coming year, it predicts a budget gap of £801,000 for 2024/25, rising to £2,480,000 by 2027/28.

Plans to charge for garden waste collection were floated by the council in 2020, but scrapped following a backlash.

Speaking at the time, Martin Goss, the council’s waste boss, said: “This decision, whether to charge for garden waste collections, was never going to be easy and I have disliked even having to consider it as an option.”

But the council’s budget report reveals the charge is once again under consideration, with a predicted saving of £200,000 over the coming year and £750,000 in 2024/25.

What do you think about the move?

The report said the budget assumed a 5 per cent take-up of the charge in 2023/24 and a 21 per cent take-up in 2024/25.

It added: “Flytipping of green waste may initially increase.”

Colchester Council's cabinet is set to discuss the planned budget at a Town Hall meeting The budget report also revealed the council could save £230,000 by developing and introducing a new policy for the provision of “recycling kits”.

The council also looks set to put a recruitment freeze in place, bidding to make a saving of £500,000 over the coming year.

The freeze will exclude roles based around health and safety and income generation, or roles which are fully externally funded or in specialist technical areas.

The report said: “£25.8m of the council’s spend is on staffing. Savings can be made across the whole organisation through initiatives to manage the staffing budgets.”

The authority also looks set to “reduce its spend” on sports and playing fields across the city, looking to parish councils and sports clubs to take on “management or ownership with an appropriate payment”.

The council said faced with a budget deficit, limited government support and £10 million of extra costs, savings, income generation and transformation of services have to be put in place.

Council leader David King said: “This is the toughest budget options process that we have ever faced, and we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions to deliver a legal and balanced budget.

“Since 2015-16 alone, we have lost a fifth of our purchasing power.

“Like everyone, we are hugely affected by the latest rise in inflation, peaking at around 11 per cent or near four times our 3 per cent increase in council tax.”

Mr King said the council has taken the decisions "needed to ensure the long-term financial stability of the council".

Colchester Council leader David King on the planned budget for 2023 He added: "We have done our best to preserve the services that residents need and value most, including help to those most at risk from the cost-of-living crisis, and we recognise that the best decisions are made by working with others, with those most affected, including partners and our staff, and with all political parties.

"Together, Colchester will find a way to remain ambitious for better, to continue to offer modern services for a modern city, whilst balancing our budget.”

Pam Donnelly, the council's chief executive, said: “Residents have told us what they want through the recent 'Future of Colchester' survey, and that feedback is at the heart of the options in the budget paper.

“Continuing as we are is not an option. We need to make some big changes to ensure we can balance the budget, but ultimately it will put us on a secure financial footing for the next three years.”