Wokingham Borough Council has been caught out over plans to make cuts to public bins throughout the area.

The council’s Liberal Democrat administration had announced intentions to make changes to street cleaning and public area maintenance that involved sealing off public bins and collecting waste from open bins from a weekly basis to a fortnightly basis.

The administration argued that these changes would save the council £600,00 over three years.

Work on these changes was undertaken, as a public bin was seen covered by a large black bag, rendering it unavailable for public use.

Similar measures preventing public use of bins has been seen across the borough, which covers Wokingham, Woodley and Earley.

However, these cost cutting measures have been put on hold as it was found that the decision to make these savings was  not fully approved via the council’s correct protocol.

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The reversal has been seized on by the Wokingham Conservatives, who have argued that it demonstrates Liberal Democrat ‘incompetence’ and a failure to follow correct procedure.

The measures must now be agreed by the council’s executive committee before they can be implemented.

Councillor Stephen Conway (Liberal Democrats, Twyford) the leader of the council, said: “After years of getting less and less money from central government we are now facing spiralling costs due to inflation and more and more people needing our help.

“This triple threat that means we need to be fully focused on efficiency and revenue-generation so we can survive and continue to help those who need us.

“The threats posed to our finances should not be under-estimated; other councils have effectively gone bankrupt and the impact of that is horrendous – services cut to the bone and Council Tax up to 10 per cent or thereabouts. It is not a fate we want inflicted on Wokingham Borough.

“However, in our understandable desire to make these necessary changes, we did not follow the correct procedure and we apologise for that. We will now go through the correct process, which will start next month with a public consultation on how any changes should be implemented.”

The measures were announced in a council news release on Thursday, July 6, with cllr Ian Shenton (Liberal Democrats, Evendons), the executive member for the environment arguing the council ‘does not have the money’ to fully maintain the public bin service, and that resources would be prioritised in the most affected areas.

Reading Chronicle: An overflowing bin in Wokingham Borough.An overflowing bin in Wokingham Borough. (Image: Wokingham Conservatives)

Criticising the Lib Dem administration, cllr Pauline Jorgensen (Conservative, Hillside), the leader of the Wokingham Conservatives said: “Politics is about making choices, and at every opportunity, the Lib Dems make the wrong ones.

“Despite it not being mentioned in their manifesto or budget announcements, Liberal Democrat councillors must have been well aware of this policy to reduce public litter bins; the Liberal Democrat Executive member was quoted in the news release announcing the cuts.

“Repeatedly the Lib Dems fail to consult with residents, and they duck scrutiny. It demonstrates a total disregard for the people who voted for them.

“Now to be told by officers that the decision was not made correctly just demonstrates the Lib Dems’ incompetence, despite what they say.”

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Cllr Jorgensen called on Labour and Independent councillors to back a Conservative motion that would have held a public consultation on the saving measures and asked for financial breakdown of the savings expected.

However the motion was defeated at a full council meeting on Thursday, July 20.

The Conservatives have a ‘save our litter bins petition’ to keep public bins and empty them frequently which has received 1,400 signatures so far.