Charity banks get the boot

A CASH-STRAPPED council has been accused of picking the pockets of the needy, after deciding to ban charity clothing banks from their recycling centres – so they can make money from their own bins.

Instead of good causes such as Scope, The Salvation Army, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation being able to benefit from donations left by members of the public at local authority sites, Northumberland County Council has struck a deal with a private contractor to collect and recycle clothes.

It estimates that around £300,000 a year can be made from the 44 sites owned by the authority which have textile facilities, including 12 main household waste recycling centres and bins located in a host of council-run car parks.

But the highly controversial move, by the county’s Liberal Democrat minority administration, has been slammed by their Conservative-Independent opposition.

Group leader, Coun Peter Jackson, said: “It is staggering that they have decided to pocket the income charities receive from clothes donated by the public. The consequences of this crass decision will be felt by the vulnerable people who rely upon these organisations. This money-grubbing move is entirely unnecessary, as the council budget has £2.8million of slack in it.

“It is short-sighted, as the charities which will lose out do crucial local work with vulnerable young, elderly and disabled people.”

A council briefing note, headed Recovery of Income from Textile Recycling and seen by the Gazette, admits that the charities will suffer, stating: ‘Removal of charity textile banks would result in a significant loss of income for the charities currently providing this service.’

Serena Tramonti, Oxfam’s campaign leader for the North East, said: “In the current economic climate, donations are needed now more than ever.

“I would like to encourage people in Northumberland who used donation banks to make sure that they deliver their donations to their local Oxfam shop from now on.”

Coun Ian Lindley, executive member for neighbourhood services, said: “There is world of need out there, but our first duty must be to Northumberland.

“It is not our job to make large donations to charity which ultimately comes out of the pocket of our residents.

“There are currently over 80 sites around Northumberland which have no textile recycling and we can look at instituting a service there.

“We have to look at what is a growing market place which clearly has a potential to pay to protect front-line services. This is a large amount of money which we can’t afford to ignore.

“Of course, we will continue to work with charities which provide direct benefit to Northumberland and collaborate with them to ensure they continue to benefit themselves.”

l Comment – Page 10