A BLAME game erupted at this week’s full council meeting between Dudley councillors after a deal to allow some residents to use a Wolverhampton tip collapsed.
For almost 20 years, people living in the north of the borough had been able to use the City of Wolverhampton Council’s waste recycling centre in Anchor Lane, near Coseley.
But the arrangement abruptly came to an end earlier this month when the Conservative-led Dudley Council walked away in protest at a proposed 67 per cent hike in charges being applied by their city counterparts.
At a full council meeting on Monday (April 19), opposition Labour members accused the administration of mishandling the issue.
They also said the council had failed to find a provision leaving residents having to make 18-mile round trips to use the sole Dudley borough facility in Stourbridge.
Authority leader Councillor Patrick Harley and Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environment, said Wolverhampton had behaved “appallingly” and given them no time to negotiate a new deal.
When the announcement was made on April 1, Wolverhampton’s deputy chief executive Mark Taylor said they had asked Dudley Council to pay 32 per cent of the £1 million running costs of Anchor Lane.
This meant Dudley would have to pay £333,000 a year for residents to continue using the site, instead of the £200,000 fee previously agreed.
Mr Taylor described it as a “fair and proportionate” share, adding they had been negotiating for 12 months before the deal collapsed.
At Monday’s meeting, Labour councillors including Qadar Zada, Eileen Taylor, Susan Ridney and Parmjit Sahota all grilled the leadership on the issue.
Upper Gornal and Woodsetton councillor Kieran Casey said: “No alternative local provision has been put in place for residents in the north other than having to fill their car up with waste and having to travel an hour’s round trip to Stourbridge, which to me is frankly unacceptable.
“Clearly no alternative provision was considered well in advance of any problems arising. This has been badly handled by the controlling group right from the start.
“When will this mess be cleared up for residents and will the leader get back around the table with Wolverhampton to sort this issue out?”
Councillor Dave Taylor said the borough Stourbridge site was costing the taxpayer £1 million per year to run.
He said: “So we have a tip in Coseley which costs taxpayers one third of the cost than the one we own ourselves which costs a million.
“Why on earth did you not think this was a good deal with Wolverhampton for Dudley taxpayers?”
Councillor Shakespeare refuted the claims the authorities had been negotiating a new deal for 12 months.
She said Wolverhampton had invited them to take part in a review of the service and carry out a survey to assess the needs of residents in the north of Dudley.
But she said they had to chase Wolverhampton for the results of the survey and meetings to discuss the hike in fees only took place in mid-February this year.
She added the arrangement had been in place since 2003 with the increased charge of £200,000 coming into effect in 2008.
Councillor Shakespeare said: “We explained our concerns about the costing they had put forward.
“They wanted an increase of all their fixed costs, regardless of our usage. Had they allowed us to discuss it, we could have negotiated a cost.
“Wolverhampton shut us down and that has had an impact on our residents in the north but I can reassure you we will continue to look for alternatives.”
She also said 23 per cent of waste taken to Anchor Lane ended up in Landfill – compared with seven per cent at Stourbridge – and this, along with the increased charge did not represent value for money.
Councillor Harley added: “They have behaved absolutely appallingly to a neighbouring local authority.
“No time at all to sit down and negotiate and ridiculous deadlines given which left our administration with no result but to walk away.”