A NEW charge for garden waste collection has been branded a “slap in the face for hard-working families in East Renfrewshire.”

The opt-in scheme is being introduced by East Renfrewshire Council on July 5, with households paying an annual fee of £40 to take part.

However, the local authority is facing mounting criticism over the controversial move.

Councillor Paul Aitken, who represents Barrhead, Liboside and Uplawmoor as an independent, insists council tax should cover the costs.

“I strongly oppose the new charge for garden waste,” he told the Barrhead News. “It is a slap in the face for hard-working families in East Renfrewshire.

“I will look to bring a proposal against this charge.”

The payment will cover collections every week, except a fortnight over the festive period, and will include the collection of Christmas trees.

Residents who choose not to pay to have their garden waste lifted will still be able to use their brown bin for food waste.

Where residents in flats share a bin for their food and/or garden waste, they can continue to do this for garden waste, provided one of them applies and pays for a permit.

There are currently no discounts or exemptions to the scheme for those on benefits.

Council chiefs are introducing the payment as they face “a significant budget shortfall” for this financial year.

They insist savings had to be identified and have stressed that income from the new charge will help to protect frontline services.

However, hundreds of local residents have used social media to voice their concerns, with many arguing the costs of what is currently a free service should continue to be met through council tax payments.

There are also fears the charge will lead to more people illegally dumping their rubbish.

However, a council spokeswoman said: “Garden waste collection is a non-statutory service, so unlike other household waste, it is not covered by council tax payments.

“This is an opt-in system and the charge amounts to less than £1 a week for a service which will be offered for 50 weeks of the year.

“We don’t foresee the introduction of the new scheme as leading to an increase in fly-tipping.

“Information we have from other councils which have introduced similar schemes shows there was no significant rise in fly-tipping.”