Controversial proposals to start charging for garden waste collection have been scrapped by councillors.

Craven District Council’s policy committee had recommended bringing in an annual £24 charge for the currently free service.

The service, which officers expected would be taken up by around a third of residents who use brown bins, would have meant savings of around £148,000 per year.

But at the full council meeting, it was overturned after several councillors reported how unpopular it was with members of the public.

Coun Carl Lis (Cons) acknowledged that the charge would be unpopular, but stressed that the council needed to make additional savings of £300,000.

“It is a reduction in service, but we are forced into having to make stark choices, and no-one has come up with an alternative how to find savings,” he said.

He said the introduction of charging would be accompanied by a scheme to encourage residents to buy subsidised composting bins.

He added that most other authorities were either bringing them in or considering charging.

But councillors opposed to charging said it was unfair, that residents would end up putting garden waste in general waste bins or resort to fly tipping and that the council’s recycling targets would be reduced.

Coun Mark Wheeler (Lib Dem) said the service, brought in by the council, had been taken up enthusiastically by residents and it would be unfair to start charging for it now.

He said: “There are clearly a number of people who resent this, and who can blame them. I’ve been to parish council meetings and thanked residents for helping us hit our recycling targets, and now we’re going to repay them by charging them £24 per year. This is not a green initiative, this is a cash cow.”

Coun Robert Heseltine (Ind) said he had been lobbied by members of the public.

“What we will have is a refuse wagon chasing all over Craven picking up one bin here and another bin there, and what will that do to our carbon footprint?” he said.

Coun Alan Sutcliffe (Cons) said he accepted the council needed to make savings, but such a charge would mean negative public relations.

Coun Ken Hart (Ind) said no-one he had spoken to had thought it was a good idea.

“Brown bins were introduced by this council, not the taxpayer,” he said.

Deputy leader Coun Richard Foster (Cons) said the council had to make savings of £300,000 and charging would generate savings of around £150,000.

“People will disagree, and I totally understand. Another option would be to simply remove the service, but we are in challenging times, and it is really starting to bite into Craven,” he said.

A recorded vote was taken, with 12 councillors voting against charging, ten for, and six abstentions.