A leading critic of plans to slash the number of Angus recycling centres has claimed Angus officials “embarrassed” councillors with their handling of the plans.
Carnoustie independent Brian Boyd said elected members had been left red-faced when proposals emerged to decimate the tally of local facilities from seven to three in a six-figure cost-cutting move.
The saving was part of the council’s budget-setting process, but Mr Boyd and other elected members – including administration SNP councillors – have condemned the scale of the cuts and spoken of their shock at the severity of the report presented by officers.
The issue has been sent back to waste management chiefs after communities committee councillors held off on signing the death knell for recycling centres in Forfar, Kirriemuir, Carnoustie, Monifieth and Brechin.
Mr Boyd and communities director Alan McKeown clashed at the latest meeting of the council’s scrutiny and audit committee over the issue after it emerged a review report had not been put before an earlier meeting in an oversight.
The Carnoustie member said that while no-one was disputing the scale of the financial challenge facing the authority, the “out of the blue” plan for the centres had left himself and colleagues stunned.
“We have to make difficult decisions all the time and we have to justify those decisions to the people who elected us, it is part and parcel of the job and what we are paid to do.
“But when we are taking these tough decisions I expect a proper and thorough report so we can fully explain the situation to the public, not what we were given at the last minute.”
He added: “The devil for this plan has indeed been in the detail and that has been the whole issue here.
“The catastrophic cuts of the scale proposed were never mentioned. People are jumping up and down wanting us to give them answers and we can’t.
“The officers have embarrassed us beyond belief over the way this has been handled. “
He continued: “The Angus public have embraced the recycling ethos wholeheartedly but the way this has been handled has the potential to completely destroy any goodwill in one fell swoop.
“Everyone I have spoken has shown that the public are realistic about paying for services which the council provide. I will keep the pressure on with this one, as others also will given the strength of feeling.
“If we can generate the money through a charge and the recycling centres remain I am sure people will be happier to pay £1 a visit rather than having to go 20 miles.
“But we really need to look at how all of this will work out and all of the interactions between the various elements of recycling and waste management rather than just working on assumptions.
“The officers had better come back with properly considered and viable options.”
An Angus Council spokesman said: “Angus Council has seen significant improvements in its kerbside recycling rates. Current performance is amongst the best in Scotland and the people of Angus are to be commended for how well they are recycling.
“The recent report to the communities committee on April 12 saw far reaching change approved without division, highlighting that protecting services through innovation is a priority for Angus Council.
“It was agreed that proposed changes in relation to recycling centres would be deferred to explore what other possible options there are for the future of the service.
“A further report will be presented to the committee on May 24 and elected members will be briefed in advance of that meeting.
“But members were clear, savings need to be made and any alternative proposal must be legal, affordable and deliverable for the long term.”