DARLINGTON’S cash-strapped council left members “flabbergasted” and “shocked” by spending £60,000 on ten new bins.

In order to help “maintain an attractive, vibrant town centre”, Darlington Borough Council recently purchased the bins, nine of which are situated in the centre and one in Cockerton.

The bins are solar-powered and can hold up to eight times more rubbish than the bins that were previously used, with litter being compacted down after being deposited.

As such, they will require less emptying, enabling the council to cut down on collections in the area.

The £6,000 per bin price incorporates a five-year maintenance plan and will be paid for out of the council’s Street Scene budget.

Street Scene, which funds environmental services across Darlington, suffered significant reductions and staff losses as part of a £12.5m programme of budget cuts announced in 2016.

However, in May this year, the council pledged to boost funding to street cleaning services as they announced an extra investment of £4.1m over four years for the town.

Cllr Nick Wallis said the bins reflected the council’s decision to maintain the town centre in line with public opinion and was part of a zero-tolerance approach to littering and a wider strategy to support the cleanliness and maintenance of the town.

He said: “This was one of the key priorities people told us was most important to them.

“Our Street Scene staff work hard, along with our many fantastic Street Champions and other volunteers, to clear litter from our streets but it’s an ongoing battle.”

Independent councillor Kevin Nicholson said he agreed with the council prioritising anti-litter initiatives but added: “Most people will struggle to comprehend how they could have spent so much on bins.

“It’s a shock to hear that the council has spent £60,000, it’s an obscene amount of money and I think taxpayers will be surprised, given the narrative from the authority that they do not have money to spend.”

Conservative councillor Charles Johnson said he was considering calling in the decision for further scrutiny, adding: “I am flabbergasted, the amount that has been spent seems over the top and I’m not sure why we need them.

“Street Scene do not have much of a budget and I haven’t heard any arguments in council for these bins – members of the public are certainly questioning this and asking what’s going on here.”

Liberal Democrat Anne-Marie Curry said that the money would be better spent increasing footfall in the town centre by supporting local businesses, adding: “Nobody is going to come from far and wide to see a bin.”

The decision to purchase the bins was made by officers and as such, was not voted on by councillors.

Similar bins were installed in Hartlepool last year, at a cost of £90,000 for 15.

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