RESIDENTS in Conwy will have to start paying for their garden waste collections.

Members of the council’s cabinet have agreed that a charge should be brought in for the service. It follows on from the authority becoming the first council in Wales to introduce a four-weekly residual waste collection.

The cash-strapped council also brought in a 9.6% council tax hike earlier this year as it struggles with a £15.2m budget shortfall. By bringing in the new charges for green waste, the council hopes to save some of its £620,000 bill for the service. More than half the councils in England and Wales have introduced charges

for garden waste collection, including Gwynedd, Denbighshire and Flintshire, with Powys planning to start in 2019. At the moment, Conwy council says its garden waste collection contract is costing it £620,000 per year, which involves crewing five collection vehicles during peak season, with the service set to go back out to tender.

A fee of £30 a year was agreed for the collections, which is expected to bring in £600,000 if 20,000 residents take up the service.

Public consultations have taken place on the proposed changes, with 57% of respondents saying they would be happy to pay for the service.

Cllr Donald Milne, the cabinet member responsible for the environment, said between 15,000 and 20,000 residents would be expected to use the service despite the introduction of the fees.

Residents who do take part in the scheme may be eligible to get free compost from the council, although this option is still under consideration.

Cllr Milne said: “Many of our residents don’t have a need for this service anyway, so why should they pay?

“The tendering process will be using our usual competitive tendering operation so I have no fears that we would not get a good deal.

“As regards compost, it was something people thought many years ago that it was something we could sell, but effectively we are too efficient. We collect so much of it that we can’t dispose of it.

“It’s only since 2007 that we have done this. Prior to that, our residents were left to their own devices and the degree of fly-tipping of garden waste then was relatively minimal.

“Authorities that have since introduced this have not seen any problems on this.”

Cllr Sam Rowlands, the cabinet member for finance, said: “We’re looking to charge £30 a year for a very good service.

“It would seem like quite a good perk to say help yourself to compost so that you’re getting as much compost as you need, as well as your stuff going.”