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Hastings overspends on recycling by £366,000

Hastings county council’s cabinet had to approve the spending of an extra £366,000 for its troubled recycling initiative.

The overspending angered local Liberal Democrats, who accused the council of gross mismanagement of its finances. Liberal Democrat leader Paul Smith told a local newspaper: “It’s the worst blunder I have seen in 30 years in council.”

Cabinet members were told that the recycling budget in 2005/06 had been significantly understated because income assumptions for recyclates were counted twice, and staffing levels at the materials recycling facility (MRF) were significantly underestimated, as was the number of sacks required.

The council also faced ‘one-off’ costs related to delays in opening its MRF and failing to fully utilise its grant awarded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Troubles started after the council secured two Defra grants of £600,000 in October 2004, on condition the money was spent by March 2005. The council said timing constraints made it struggle to deliver all the elements of the project to deadline, therefore losing it a proportion of the grants.

The construction of its new MRF also ran into problems – and the initial three month delay became eight months. In the interim the council had stored material collected for reprocessing, to send to the MRF when it was completed. But the huge delay meant the MRF was unable to cope with the stockpile, which to be sent elsewhere for reprocessing – costing the council loss of income, as well as transport and storage costs.

As a result of the review the council has taken management action and has incorporated the additional recycling costs into its 2006/07 budget.

On a more positive note the council has reported being on track to meet its 18% recycling target, having achieved a rate of 19.4% for its third quarter.

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