SOUTH Gloucestershire Council’s ruling Conservatives have been accused of returning to their ‘nasty party’ ways after opting to put frontline services at risk in favour of reducing the district's green bin charge.

Tories will cut the green bin ‘tax’ from £36 to £30 a year after receiving an extra £1.8million of funding for two years from government, but not after impassioned pleas from Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors to use the money to safeguard under threat libraries, youth services and nine council-funded PCSO posts.

Cllr Clare Fardell (Lib Dem, Thornbury North) told a packed full council meeting on Wednesday (February 17): “Not a single person has complained to me about the green bin charge since it was introduced but people in Thornbury are very, very angry about the threat to the youth service.

“I don’t think people will be grateful for a 50pence a month reduction but they will be angry about youth services.”

Cllr Mike Drew (Lib Dem, Yate North) said: “What is more important? Saving 50pence a month for a few residents or providing youth services to our young people?

“We would all like green bins for free but there are more important things to spend the money on.”

But Tory party leader Cllr Matthew Riddle (Con, Severn) said it was upholding its manifesto pledge to cut the Lib Dem-proposed green bin charge.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant or boastful but we actually did win the election and have a manifesto to roll out,” he said. “I think a £6 reduction is a measured, proportionate response.

“Charging for green bins is actually a tax on recycling.”

Cllr Ian Boulton (Lab, Staple Hill), deputy leader of the district’s Labour party, said South Gloucestershire’s share of the government’s £300million Transition Grant could also be used to continue paying the council’s lowest members of staff the Living Wage Foundation rate, instead of cutting pay to the forthcoming National Living Wage, which the Tories also proposed only emailing unions by means of consultation.

“This sees a return to the nasty party," said Cllr Boulton.

“A reduction in the green bin charge is a way of saving face, given the leaflets sent out by the Conservatives in the run up to the election and by their MPs.

"We thought their priorities were wrong then and we don’t believe all Tory councillors really believe this now.”

Cllr Boulton implored Conservative councillors, who all remained silent during the debate except their leader, to ‘speak up’ and defend their decision to cut the green bin charge.

“Speak with some passion like we have heard from this side in support of a 50pence a month reduction and explain to us why it is your priority,” he said.

“Because we think your priorities are wrong.”

Cllr Drew said: “Is there a gag on members not allowing them to speak either for or against?”

Cllr Rob Creer (Con, Chipping Sodbury), who has pledged to help save Chipping Sodbury Library which is earmarked for closure to save £42,000 a year, did vote in favour of a Liberal Democrat proposal to spend the government grant funding the library for an extra year and abstained from a third Labour amendment to fund libraries instead of the green bin reduction. After all opposition challenges were lost, a final vote on the Conservatives’ proposal was won with Cllr Creer voting in favour.

A named vote took place so the public can find out exactly how their elected representative voted.

Cllr Riddle said a decision on the future of libraries had not yet been made and a 12-week consultation was due to start on Monday (February 22).

“Nothing is going to happen to libraries until October 2017 so we have time,” he said. “Every member here can go out to their local library and see how we can get some innovation into our library service.

“We need to reduce costs but at the same time keep opening hours as high as possible.”

The council set a budget of £185.2million with Council Tax due to rise by 3.99 per cent. The increase will mean Band D householders face a bill of £1,295. With the government’s Revenue Support Grant set to decline to £3.9million by 2019/20, Council Tax rates are planned to increase again by 3.99 per cent each year for the next four years.