Village halls face 300% fee hikes

CHIDDINGLY Village Hall - Stephen Tolhurst and members of committee angry about wate removal price rise
CHIDDINGLY Village Hall - Stephen Tolhurst and members of committee angry about wate removal price rise

Bin collection fees for village halls are set to rise by up to 300 per cent across the district.

The sharp rise in fees follows Wealden District Council’s decision to appoint Kier Environmental Services in a £12 million per year contract. The contract was also signed by Eastbourne Borough, Hastings Borough, and Rother District councils last December.

The price hike is because village halls are being forced to pay business rates by the company to collect waste. The district council had previously charged them at the cheaper domestic rate.

The changes leave Chiddingly Village Hall committee facing a bill of £540, a rise of £166.40 per year. At Herstmonceux Village Hall the annual charges are due to increase by £522 to £938.50.

The village hall committee has had the two week deadline to sign the new deal extended by a further two weeks by Kier. A time span which does not allow some committees to meet and sanction the new contract, said the committee’s chairman Stephen Tolhurst.

He said: “To be expected to provide a reply and sign contracts in that time is ludicrous. To call a one-off meeting in that time is just not practical.

“It’s totally disgusting that they can behave like that. It’s less than a week that we heard about the increase in charges.

“They seem to think they are in a position to change our contract at the drop of a hat.

“For a start any surplus we have made is totally wiped out if we sign up to the contract.

“We might have to put charges up and at the moment various users are finding it difficult because of the economic climate and we could well lose some important users.

“It’s certainly not impossible it could close, depending on the economic climate and whether we are able to attract users, which could be difficult if we have to put our prices up.”

Chiddingly Village Hall is currently hired out for 1,500 hours each year, said Mr Tolhurst.

Ian Stewart, treasurer at Herstmonceux Village Hall, said: “Imagine my shock, as treasurer of Herstmonceux Village Hall, to receive Keir’s suggested invoice for the collection of our trade waste for 2013/14 in the sum of £938.50. In 2012/13 Wealden DC performed the same service for £416 so Keir have more than doubled the price.”

He added: “It’s not just us, but all the other parishes are up in arms about this.

“What we are trying to do is look for other contractors to look at bringing the price down.”

The contract is due save Wealden District Council £750,000 a year and the four authorities a combined £30million in the next decade.

A Wealden District Council spokesman said if customers believe they are producing household waste and are therefore entitled to free disposal, they should contact council.

He added: “We regret that we are no longer able to subsidise non-commercial organisations by paying for the disposal of their waste. Charges are split between the cost of collection and cost of disposal, and in the past, the council has been able not to charge non-commercial organisations for disposal.

“In the course of awarding the contract for our household waste and recycling collection to Kier, Wealden also sold its commercial waste service to the company.

“As a private contractor, Kier has to charge for collections and pass on the cost for disposal; they also have to apply VAT to this service.

“The Council is aware that the increase in costs may raise finance issues for some community organisations, particularly in the first year and is looking to see how support may be given through other means.

“There has been a national move to ensure local authorities and private contractors operate on a level playing field and Defra changed the waste regulations in 2012 to this end.”