WIRRAL councillors have voted in favour of public consultation on plans for the weekly collection of food waste during a meeting tonight.

The council's ruling cabinet voted last month to begin consultation over their scheme to give householders an extra bin for leftovers to be recycled and turned into fuel.

It could mean the existing green wheelie bins will be reduced in size or emptied only every three weeks.

Oxton Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly made a request to "call in" the plan; a procedure which forces the council to review key decisions.

The proposal was debated during a two-hour meeting of the environment overview and scrutiny committee late this afternoon.

In the end, the group's Labour members voted in favour of a six-week public consultation. 

But its opposition party members - including Clatterbridge Conservative councillor Adam Sykes and Eastham Liberal Democrat Chris Carubia - had raised concerns over the time-scale and called instead for the consultation to be extended to 12-weeks, which was defeated.

Addressing committee, cabinet member for environment Cllr Bernie Mooney said the recycling plan was "good for Wirral, good for the community and good for the environment". 

Cllr Mooney warned that failing to meet recycling targets would end in fines from the EU and a significant increase in the levy paid by the authority for waste disposal and treatment.

She said: "Doing nothing is not an option.

"We need to encourage people to recycle as soon as we can and are prepared to do whatever we can to increase recycling.

"We are going to have to work very hard, because for many it's about behavioural change.

"Over the last 10 years, Wirral has been one of the highest areas in Merseyside for recycling.

"The council's current recycling has improved, it is now 37%. We need to do a lot more if we are to reach the target of 50%.

"If we are going to meet targets we need to consult."

Addressing the committee before the vote, Cllr Stuart Kelly said: "I have not come here to try to make a case against the idea that we should introduce a weekly collection for food waste - that is not the purpose of the call-in.

"I do think there is support for increased recycling amongst residents.

"But there will be some concern about how food waste collection will work in practice.

"It is important that people fully understand the process that they can expect from the council and the best way to manage the process within their households.

"We have the unhappy experience of the last time this was tried, which is worrying some of the people who have contacted me since the cabinet meeting; these concerns need to be worked through.

"If the council works with people and listens to the ideas people may have we can increase rates of recycling.

"The problem comes, I think when the council approaches the issue of waste collection and recycling with a 'we know best' attitude loosely wrapped up as a consultation.

"It is not intended to have an open and wide-ranging conversation with people about how to increase recycling or how to best introduce a food collection service.

"The cabinet decision is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Wirral.

"It should be referred back with a demand from this committee for a real conversation with the people of Wirral about recycling."

Echoing his concerns, Conservative councillor Ian Lewis, who addressed the committee, said: "The timescale is six weeks, during the summer holidays. 

"By restricting the timescale of the consultation, the cabinet decision prevents public consultation.

"Consultation should take place over 12 weeks."