Bin fee u-turn still not enough

Herstmonceux village hall. January 4th 2013 E02029P
Herstmonceux village hall. January 4th 2013 E02029P

A dramatic u-turn on a hike in bin collection charges to village halls has been made by the district council’s refuse contractor.

The charitable organisations are to get one 240 litre bin emptied free each week after Kier, the district’s refuse collection provider, reversed plans to increase charges by up to 300 per cent following crisis talks with Wealden District Council (WDC).

The move came as the Sussex Express reported how village halls faced soaring costs as Kier took on the contract from WDC after winning a tendering process last year.

Village and church halls and places of worship are permitted one standard wheeled bin of refuse and dry recycling emptied during weekly collection service.

The move is expected to help around 50 properties.

But it is set to have no impact on larger village halls like Herstmonceux, according to the treasurer of the hall’s committee Ian Stewart.

He said: “A normal sized wheely bin is okay if at a small hall, but we have a large hall and we’ve a 1,100 litre bin. So it might help the smaller halls but doesn’t help the large halls.

“At the moment the feeling is still one of anger that they have not addressed the issue and thought through what they are doing in a village hall and small business sense.

“Because they sold the contract on they haven’t understood what effect it would have on charity and non VAT registered businesses.”

He added: “We’ve got quotes from local companies and as a committee will look how to go forward.

“We would prefer to keep business local rather than put extra money into a huge business.”

Chiddingly Village Hall faced a 300 per cent hike in charges and an uncertain future before the u-turn. It is one of the smaller village halls in the area.

Stephen Tolhurst, chairman of trustees at the village hall, said: “It’s a little bit ludicrous that they obviously didn’t think it through properly before putting it out to contract.

“I think all the noise we made in village halls rather took them aback and hopefully forced them to do something.”

He added: “It will certainly bring costs down but we will have to wait to see if we can make a weekly collection be okay.”

Community halls had been charged for collection but not disposal of their waste by the WDC.

The contract changes require all users of the commercial service to pay for the cost of collection and disposal of trade waste.

Cllr Rowena Moore, WDC cabinet member for waste management, said: “The Council and Kier are aware of concerns raised by a potential increase in commercial collection charges and the effect it could have on village hall finances.

“These halls provide a vital function for our rural communities, hosting public meetings. As a Council we feel it is important we try to help the communities and the volunteers who play such an important role in keeping them going.

“I am very pleased with the positive way we have been able to work with Kier to offer this help.”