Residents in South Hams could be asked to pay for their garden waste to be collected; a service which is currently free.

Councillors will consider whether to charge £49 per year for a fortnightly collection from next spring.

The move follows the decision by South Hams District Council (SHDC) to take back control of bin collections after the private firm employed to run them agreed in July to end its contract.

Waste services were outsourced to FCC Environment in April 2019 but have faced problems ever since, including missed collections and complaints that vehicles were too large for some areas.

The decision to take the services in-house was met with a mixture of relief and frustration by some councillors who argued they never should have been outsourced in the first place.

SHDC will take back full control of bin collections from Monday 3 October but the handover is thought to cost around £3 million.

South Hams executive member for the environment, and Lib Dem councillor for Newton and Yealmpton, Keith Baldry, said: “When the council decided to bring the waste service back in-house, that comes with the reality of increased costs. With such high inflation, we’ve been left with no choice but to consider every way we can to balance the budget.

“A paid garden waste collection is one way we might be able to achieve that. As well as balancing the books though, this is also about ensuring that our statutory services, the core waste and recycling collections, can run as well as they possibly can when the service comes back in-house.

“However, we want to keep running the current free service into the autumn, so that our residents have a chance to clear their gardens ahead of the colder months ahead.

“Compared to what private companies charge for collections, a £49 annual fee represents good value for money.”

But Lib Dem councillor for Stokenham, Julian Brazil, said it highlights a series of council failures.

“That money looks like it’s going to be coming out of a business support reserve that we have,” he said.

“That £3 million would have been much better used supporting local businesses. But as it is, it’s basically just correcting the mistake that this council has made.”

But despite the problems and controversies, some councillors feel ending garden waste collections could have some positive benefits.

Green councillor for Totnes, Joseph Rose, said: “The recycling shambles has had a huge impact on all of the residents of South Hams and continues to be a nightmare for many residents.

“If garden waste is stopped, it is actually an opportunity for people to home compost, which is very simple and saves a huge amount of energy and provides people with compost for their gardens.”

And Cllr Rose suggested it would save the council and residents money.

“Obviously, we’re wanting to cut down unnecessary energy that would be required to move garden waste from people’s homes to centralised composting areas.

“If people are able to process their own garden waste at home and then turn it into useful compost, that could be either used in their garden or in their local area, it cuts out the middleman.”

The council executive will debate the topic at their meeting on Thursday 15 September.