BOURNEMOUTH council look set to perform a U-turn on its free garden waste collections policy – and start charging households up to £50 a year.

The service, launched in 2008, is used by almost 32,000 households and currently runs fortnightly from April to November. Last year the scheme was responsible for 4,375 tonnes of garden waste being composted.

In May 2013, council leader John Beesley said fees would not be introduced while he was in charge, insisting he had “no intention whatsoever of charging for green waste”.

However under the new proposals to be put before members at a cabinet meeting on September 9, an “annual membership fee” of £50 per household for two bins or a £35 charge for one bin has been recommended for approval.

Challenged by the Daily Echo that this was in direct contradiction to his previous statements, Cllr Beesley said the current policy was “unsustainable” and government-imposed cuts to town hall budgets were a factor in the decision.

“There is no doubt about it – we are doing this very reluctantly,” he said. “It is disappointing to have to change this policy, but the government is giving us less money.”

He said “circumstances have changed since the election”, pointing to the Chancellor’s autumn statement, which will mean the council has to "prepare for worse to come” with regard to budget cuts.

He added that neighbouring councils already charge for garden waste collections and that frontline services need to be prioritised.

The council spent £650,000 on the service in 2015/16 and expects that figure to increase to £680,000 for 2016/17.

If members give the proposals the go-ahead, the new garden waste service would take effect from February next year. It is planned to expand the collection period to 10 months, spanning from February to December.

In the report, written by the council's waste and resources project manager Georgina Fry, it is claimed rejecting the proposals would result in "reduced flexibility, resilience and adaptability in relation to the emerging Compost Quality Protocol".

Cllr Michael Filer, cabinet member for cleansing and waste, described the proposals as "modest" and "good value for money".

He added: "Garden waste collection will also continue at Millhams and seasonally at King’s Park on Sunday mornings.”

If approved, residents who take part in the existing garden waste collection service will be notified of the changes, and a letter will be issued in October providing details of how to register for the 2016 scheme. Residents who wish to join the 2016 scheme will be able to apply by visiting from September 10.