Rubbish tips in West Sussex are set to open an hour earlier this winter than 2016, as part of proposed changes.
Last October West Sussex County Council implemented cuts and introduced new charges at its Household Waste Recycling Sites as part of cost-cutting measures.
All but three sites were closed for two days a week and hours of operation were reduced across the board.
However the charges for non-household waste such as soil, hard core, DIY, and plasterboard were temporarily suspended in April this year after the publication of the Government’s anti-littering strategy.
Earlier this summer Deborah Urquhart, WSCC’s cabinet member for the environment, set up a cross-party task and finish group to review the options for winter opening hours.
Apart from Bognor Regis, Crawley, Worthing, and Littlehampton, which are trialilng different hours, the tips are open from 10am-7pm in the summer and 10am-5pm in the winter.
But from October 1 to the end of March, all rubbish tips will open and close earlier from 9am-4pm.
According to the cabinet member’s decision report, it was ‘evident’ the 10am opening time has led to problems with queuing ‘causing significant disruption to local businesses and residents across a number of the sites’.
A decision on future summer opening hours is expected in November.
A short term decision about charges for so-called ‘DIY’ waste will be taken by the cabinet member later in September.
The task and finish group looked at the option of closing the three waste transfer stations to public access at Crawley, Burgess Hill, and Westhampnett, for a day a week to see whether this could be accommodated to free up hours for other more heavily used sites to be open longer or more frequently.
However at this time ‘more extensive options considered by the TFG should be further examined’.
But the last part of the decision report, issued late last week, suggests in error that the changes ‘improves availability at Worthing’ and that the three rubbish tips currently open all week would instead be open for six days.
A spokesman for the county council said: “With any decision we make there is a process we go through to make sure the decision has been properly considered by all the appropriate people.
“Unfortunately there is a drafting error in the report mentioned which includes an earlier option, put forward by a member group set up to look at this issue, that was later discounted.
“The report was not properly amended following the final cabinet member decision.
“The cabinet member with responsibility for environment considered a whole range of options looking at the cost implications of those changes and the impact on the public and those using the service. The final decision was to adjust winter opening hours from 10am-5pm to 9am-4pm from October 1.
“Further proposals, along with wider issues including the policy on charging for DIY waste will continue to be reviewed with a decision expected in the autumn.”
Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Gossops Green) said: “There’s undoubtedly been a lot of backtracking going on with this decision.
“The West Sussex Tories were seriously considering closing Crawley, Westhampnett and Burgess Hill at least one day a week, but at the eleventh hour appear to have realised that was a step too far.
“The report was rushed out as a result of the adverse publicity caused by press and opposition councillors’ criticism, as it clearly hasn’t been fully proof-read.
“The references to the provisionally-decided cuts are still in that one paragraph, so the county council have been caught red-handed.
“We also still have the ridiculous situation where major towns in West Sussex the size of Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Horsham do not have HWRCs that are open seven days a week.
“If one reads into the ‘stray’ paragraph in the report, Worthing has lost out on an increase in availability, and there must be a pressing need for it to be open more days otherwise it wouldn’t even have been considered.
“In any case, now the county Tories are going to ignore the problems at Worthing on grounds of cost, which will undoubtedly anger Worthing residents even further.
“This decision has even worse implications for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton who are both set to lose an hour from each end of the day.
“Winter hours are currently advertised on the West Sussex recycling website as 8am – 5pm.
“That is taking a risk, given the traffic problems that occurred before. We could soon be seeing more road chaos, with queues stretching down the road again.”