Hunts council branded ‘mean’ over textile banks plan

NOT content with squeezing the voluntary sector in its budget, Huntingdonshire District Council is now proposing to take income away from charities, according to a Liberal Democrat councillor.

At the heart of the row is a proposal to replace bottle banks operated by parish councils, from which they derive income of �40,000 a year across the district, with textile banks from next month. The parishes would get �150 a tonne, and HDC would keep the rest of the proceeds.

But Councillor Mike Shellens, a Liberal Democrat who is also vice-chairman of one of the biggest bottle-bank earners Brampton Parish Council, accuses HDC of being “mean” and seeking to take income from charities that already have textile banks.

“We have a British Heart Foundation textile bank already,” he added. “It’s emptied every couple of weeks and the BHF gets 50p a kilo – that’s �500 a tonne.

“I think it’s mean to try to take away income from the voluntary sector whenthey’re already doing that in the budget.”

A spokesman for BHF could not confirm Cllr Shellens’s figures, but said: “A bank full of good-quality stock could be worth up to �1,000 to use.”

HDC’s cash contributions to the voluntary sector are set to reduce over the coming couple of years from �375,000 to just �75,000 as a result of budget cuts.

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Bottle banks have been far less used since HDC introduced kerbside collections in blue bins two years ago, and the district council is looking to make some money at the same time as increasing its recycling rate.

One of the biggest ‘contaminants’ in blue bins at present is textiles, according to Eric Kendall, the council’s new head of operations.

“We want to continue to provide some income to the parish councils that have the banks on their sites, and textiles are getting quite a good price per tonne,” he told The Hunts Post. “It’s a new contract, along with other district councils in the county, and in future it could include shoes, DVDs and other things we currently don’t do. It will spread the range of materials we recycle. We shall put as many banks out as we can.”

Mr Kendall said HDC would be looking at a publicity campaign to highlight the need to use the new textile banks, as well as not to contaminate the blue bins with materials HDC cannot recover from them, such as textiles, metal, wood and food waste.

“We don’t yet know whether the parishes will get more or less from textiles, compared with the glass collections. At the moment it’s very difficult to estimate, though we have told them what tonnage they need to get the same income.”

Cllr Shellens, who stressed that he was not speaking for the parish council, which had not yet discussed the matter, is quite sure that Brampton will not generate 70 tonnes of recycled textiles in addition to that which currently goes into the BHF bank.

INFORMATION: Ignoring the cost of providing the service, HDC currently makes money from sales of some recycled plastic bottles and aluminium cans. Paper is the biggest earner. Glass collected at the kerbside can be used only for aggregates, so generates little income. Other materials cost more to recycle than the income they generate, but HDC is among the top 20 district councils in the country for recycling.