Surrey County Council has said it is being forced into closing a number of its household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and cutting opening hours at others because of “unprecedented financial pressure”.
The Conservative-led authority is consulting on shutting four 15 HWRCs as part of plans to save £2m. It is also looking to close others on weekdays and ending a free daily allowance of construction waste.
It said that a county-wide HWRC network would be maintained and “open at the times they are most needed”.
The proposals have been criticised by Liberal Democrat councillors and are likely to prove unpopular with residents.
Mike Goodman, council cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “We face very tough decisions and very much regret having to make these proposals.
“Despite that, our proposals would mean there would still be a comprehensive network of [HWRCs] across the county, and we will also continue our work to tackle fly-tipping which has dropped by more than 1,000 tonnes in the past year.”
But Stephen Cooksey, Lib Dem councillor and spokesperson for environment and highways, said: “These proposals are a green light for fly-tipping in Surrey. The environmental consequence of discouraging the use of recycling centres would be very significant.
“Furthermore, these plans are being pushed by the Conservatives because of the financial crisis at [the council], caused by their failure to persuade their Conservative central Government to provide a better funding settlement.
“Last time the county council consulted on charges and reduced hours for [HWRCs], residents told them loud and clear that they did not want them. The Conservatives then ignored them and introduced charges anyway. I fear this is a similar meaningless consultation.”
Surrey’s HWRCs accept around 113,000 tonnes of waste and recycling each year.
In September 2016, the county joined a growing band of local authorities to introduced DIY waste charges at HWRCs. More than 1,500 residents signed a petition calling for the introduction of charges at nine of its 15 HWRCs to be scrapped.
The petition, set up by a councillor, said: “The new recycling and waste charges to be introduced on 1 September are exorbitant and will mean that the problem of fly-tipping will increase.”
But after the charges were introduced, the council said fly-tipping incidents had in fact dropped by 263 tonnes.