Taxpayers foot £500,000 bill for daily bin collection

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SPECIAL daily bin collections from some of Edinburgh's most prestigious addresses have landed council taxpayers with a bill for nearly £500,000.

&#149 Heriot Row

The council introduced the seven-days-a-week, night-time refuse collections to help traffic flow in busy city centre streets during the tram works.

But it was criticised for including some streets where congestion and bin uplifts were said to present no real problem.

Now council documents are said to show the arrangement is costing 20,000 a month at a time when the council is under financial pressure with a spending gap of up to 90 million.

The special collections were set up to cover several prestigious New Town streets, including Heriot Row, Abercromby Place and Darnaway Street, because they were part of a diversion route for emergency vehicles during the tram works.

Around 3400 properties are involved in the arrangement, around half of them residential.

The council previously said "trader demand" was the reason the houses had collections seven days a week. But a study carried out by the council seems to question demand in Heriot Row, showing that at the time only eight properties out of nearly 100 were putting their bins out every day.

Alistair Stein, chairman of the Central New Town Residents Association, who lives in Heriot Row, said he believed most residents would be happy with twice-weekly collections with heavy-duty bin bags.

He said: "We never asked for seven-day collections."

The frequency of the service came to light in October after the council said it was considering extending the scheme around other parts of the New Town.

The daily collections were supposed to be in place from February 2009 for ten months at a total cost of 200,000 while tram works were carried out on Princes Street.

But the council continued the arrangement long after the Princes Street works ended in November 2009.

So far, the extension of the collections appears to have cost the council an extra 250,000.

Andrew Burns, Labour group leader at the council, criticised the daily collections.

He said: "These arrangements may have been understandable during the complete closure of Princes Street, but over a year later it is hard to see how they can now be justified.

"It even appears local residents acknowledge this and would be perfectly happy to go back to a normal collection routine."

The row over daily collections for some addresses comes as the council consults on reducing residential waste collection across the city from weekly to fortnightly. That move has prompted fears of homes gathering unused food, nappies and other pungent products which in theory could lie for 13 days.

The council said it was unable to comment on the cost, or why the daily collections were still taking place.