Dorset council is seeking talks with neighbouring Hampshire council over payments for the use of a household waste recycling centre (HWRC) by its residents.
Dorset council currently pays to fund access for its residents at the Somerley HWRC which is owned by Hampshire county council.
However, Hampshire council plans to introduce a £5 charge for non-residents to use the site, starting from April 2020, which would include residents coming to the site from Dorset.
The site is located near Ringwood, just across the county border from Dorset. 56% of its users are from Dorset, Hampshire council claims, and Dorset currently pays £60,630 a year for its residents to use the HWRC without individuals having to pay at the gate.
But Hampshire council says it must be ‘fair’ to its residents – claiming that the cost it incurs by Dorset residents using the Somerley HWRC is around £200,000 per year.
“This is why we think the best way forward is to ensure non-Hampshire residents can continue to visit Hampshire HWRCs by making a reasonable contribution to the cost of the service whenever they visit one,” said Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire county council.
“Councils are facing financial challenges due to growing demands across all council services, particularly in social care, and we have to look very carefully at every area of spend.”
“We think the best way forward is to ensure non-Hampshire residents can continue to visit Hampshire HWRCs by making a reasonable contribution to the cost of the service whenever they visit one”
At a meeting of Dorset council’s cabinet last week, councillors were told the local authority could face costs of up to £144,000 per year as a result of the charge, if it results in increased use of its own HWRCs and potentially increased disposal costs due to more waste being put in kerbside bins.
Concerns were raised over the impact the charges could have at Dorset’s Wimborne HWRC, the nearest Dorset-owned alternative to Somerley. Officers noted that Wimborne is already operating at capacity, with long queues a common occurrence. The site closes several times a day for containers to be changed, officers noted.
Improvements to Wimborne have been considered previously, but rejected due to high costs.
Dorset’s waste plans acknowledge the need for a new HWRC in the east of the county – but it has been estimated that such a project could cost £3-5 million and no funding or land has yet been allocated.
Dorset council chose not to comment until further decisions had been made.