Free refuse service considered for OAPs

Seán O’Riordan

County Manager Maurice Moloney said, after a reconvened budget meeting yesterday, that he will study a number of recommendations made by public representatives and make a decision before the end of the month.

However, he was not prepared to give a commitment there and then to a motion passed to give all OAPs, regardless of income, a free service.

Cllr John Mulvihill (Lab), had called for the move, stating that Cobh Town Council had borne the cost of that experiment last year and he felt it a worthy one. He received cross-party support from the majority of fellow members.

At present those on State Pensions or Social Welfare are entitled to a waiver of approximately E120 a year which is exactly the collection charge being proposed by the council.

However, they would still have to fork out 46 cents per kilo of waste disposed of.

Mr Moloney said that giving a free service to those in receipt of State Pensions would need to be paid for by other people and this would lead to a rise of at least 2 cents per kilo, or an extra 12 per household this year.

He said this costing was only based on those who had no other income except the State Pension and he was concerned that councillors had overlooked those in receipt of Disability Benefit.

The county manager has the power to levy whatever charges he sees fit, without approval of his 48 councillors. But he promised to look at the recommendations.

Fine Gael, which has a majority on the council, also pushed through a recommendation to abolish the collection charge entirely and instead raise the weight charge to 66 cents per kilo. FG leader in the council, Cllr Peter Kelly, said the charge would be fairer and encourage more recycling.

Cllr Alan Coleman, Fianna Fáil's leader in the chamber, described the FG motion as nothing more than an "attempt at headline-grabbing."

He claimed that customers in south Cork would be put at a disadvantage as there simply aren't enough bring sites (recycling centres) available to them. Several councillors criticised the lack of capacity over the Christmas period, which saw a number of sites left strewn with litter.

Mr Moloney said that 34 new bring sites would be set up in south Cork this year and the frequency of collection of paper, cardboard, cans and plastics would be increased.

The south Cork area is the last of three regions in the county to have the pay-by-weight system introduced and has considerably less sites per head of population than west or north Cork.

Fianna Fáil proposed having a different charge for south Cork, but the party was unable to gain support for its recommendation.

"The scheme needs to settle down before we can have just a weight charge. We need to fund the bring sites, Bottlehill (the proposed county landfill) and the MRF (Materials Recovery Centre). The way forward is to decrease the standing charge in the years ahead," Mr Moloney said.

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