THE cost of holding a special council meeting to discuss controversial waste reforms has been revealed.

Cheshire West and Chester Council will convene a special in person meeting of Full Council on Tuesday, July 27 to debate changes to the borough’s waste policy.

The policy had been due to be debated at last week’s informal, virtual council meeting, but following a request from eight Conservative councillors for it to be held in person, the agenda item was pulled and will now be debated separately on Tuesday.

That meeting will be held at Chester Racecourse and the council said it will cost £6,000 to make the necessary arrangements.

The venue was chosen in preference to a council-owned leisure centre, to avoid disruption to family leisure activities. Following a COVID 19 risk assessment, the usual council chamber in Winsford has been assessed as unsuitable.

The £6,000 figure was released into the public domain by the council after a motion put forward by leader Louise Gittins at last week’s meeting to publicize the cost.

A council spokesperson, said: “In the light of the current COVID 19 situation, which has seen accelerating infection rates, increasing admissions to local hospitals, and substantial numbers of people required to self isolate, the council will take active measures to mitigate the safety risks to councillors, staff and members of the public.”

The planned waste reforms include charging £40-per-year for garden waste collections, as well as replacing existing 55-litre boxes with larger capacity recycle bins on wheels.

But the method of deciding on the plans has proven almost as controversial as the proposals themselves.

Full council meetings have been conducted virtually for the last 16 months. Usually, decisions made at council are not legally binding unless the vote takes place in person, but as the Covid situation deteriorated last year the government introduced temporary legislation allowing for virtual decisions to be carried.

That legislation expired earlier this year which meant that any decision made virtually was again no longer legally binding. The council had wanted to get around that by allowing members to 'indicate' their views on the night, and then for the authority’s chief executive Andrew Lewis to use different powers to give it legal sign off following consultation with the council chairman, council leader, leader of the opposition and portfolio holder.

But a group of Conservative councillors have called for the in person meeting - which the council is constitutionally bound to agree to - saying that the issue is so controversial that it must be debated in person. The ruling Labour administration has also been accused of trying to avoid scrutiny. In response, Labour councillors have accused them of placing staff and members at unnecessary risk and pointed to the fact virtual meetings have previously worked well.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 6pm.