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Emptying the bins costs taxpayers €18m

DUBLIN City Council lost €18m on its waste collection service in 2010, with arrears making up a large part of the shortfall, new figures have revealed.

The local authority -- which wants to privatise the sector from December 5 -- spent €17.9m more on collecting rubbish last year than it earned in revenue.

Fine Gael councillor Ruairi McGinley told the Herald the council was "not being paid" by many householders, with arrears standing at €14.2m as of September this year.

"The council has been subsidising waste management but it can't afford to do that anymore," he added. "We are under pressure to reduce costs by €25m next year."

It is estimated that, when waste collection staff are redeployed, the council will save €8m by privatising the service.

"That's a big chunk of (the €25m). It will go towards protecting the other council services," he said.

It is believed some staff -- the ones with 30 years service or more -- want a redundancy package rather than redeployment.

In a report, city officials said overall cost of waste collection came to €44,799,715 last year, an amount that was offset by income of €21,535,000.

The direct cost for the year was €39,481,496, giving a net loss of €17,946,496.

Assistant city manager Seamus Lyons has told councillors the bin collections cannot be made viable and must be sold.

This is despite a majority of councillors calling on the local authority to halt the privatisation. Losses have increased as the number of low-income households qualifying for a fees waiver multiplied during the recession. The council entered into discussions with unions representing staff last May about the plans.

Consultancy company Ampersand was then appointed to carry out a review of the collection service.

Mr Lyons said the resulting document made clear that it was not possible to "make the service viable either within the city council or as a social enterprise operation". It is now planned to have a private operator in place by December 5.

Unions Impact and Siptu have requested the Labour Relations Commission review the council's decision. Concerns have emerged that industrial action may be undertaken by council bin workers if the privatisation goes ahead.

In a reply to Fine Gael's Mary O'Shea, the local authority said the amount due to the city council at the end of September 2011 was €14.2m.

It included bills issued during July for the second quarter of 2011.

comurphy@herald.ie

comurphy@herald.ie