Plans to slash food recycling subsidies by up to a third have been condemned by anti-incinerator campaigners as a move towards ensuring the controversial plan goes ahead.
The move, which is likely to come into effect in 2015, was set out in a letter from a senior Norfolk County Council official to district council bosses.
The proposal, which the authority claims is necessary to avoid closing recycling centres in the county, has been made as part of the authority’s plans to make £189 million of cuts over the next three years, on which a public consultation began last week.
But opponents say the move is designed to discourage recycling and create more waste for the incinerator to burn, if it is given final approval by the government and on-going reviews of the agreement struck for the development between the council and Cory Wheelabrator.
West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney said: “We know why they’re doing it. It’s because they don’t want people to recycle more and we do.
“They want more weight to go into that incinerator. I just wish they would be honest enough to say it.”
At current rates, district councils receive £78.67 for every tonne of kitchen waste recycled in their areas in a subsidy payment from the county council.
However, according to the letter from assistant director of environment and waste Mark Allen, which was sent to each district council in the county last week, that figure is set to be cut to £52.06 per tonne from April 2015.
Since the introduction of a weekly food waste collection service in April, the borough council claims that more than 2,100 tonnes of waste has been diverted away from landfill.
Mr Daubney said the county proposal would cost his authority around £75,000 per year and claimed passing additional costs to district councils was “pointless”, as it would not save the taxpayer any money overall.
But the letter claims the introduction of the cut will coincide with district authorities enjoying the benefits of the first year the new materials recovery facilities contract, which covers the expansion of recycling services to include things like glass bottles which are not currently collected from residents’ homes.
A county council spokesman said yesterday: “The County Council at this time is faced with making huge savings.
“Reducing the higher rate recycling credit paid to three districts for food waste will make savings of £166,000 a year that will help pay towards the costs of not having to permanently shut any of our recycling centres.
“We will still be paying over £6.5 million in recycling credits every year to the district councils for the recycling they collect from householders, which includes food waste where those schemes are up and running and £300,000 to local community groups.
However, Mike Knights, vice-chairman of the King’s Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN) campaign group, said the document was a “clear indication” that officials at County Hall were concerned about making sure there was enough material available to stock the incinerator.
“It’s a way of attacking the borough and penalising people who are doing the right thing with waste. It’s a way of trying to free up waste for burning.”
The letter also details plans, first reported in the Lynn News on Friday, to reduce the opening hours of several recycling centres in the county, including Heacham, as well as introducing a charge for using the centre.
Critics have claimed those measures will lead to more cases of fly-tipping.