Angry business owners hit out yesterday at council plans to slash rubbish collections - and crank up charges. Tynedale Council wants to reduce bin collections for businesses in a third of the towns and villages it serves.
And owners of pubs and restaurants in the Tyne Valley fear that it will cause a hygiene crisis.
David Graham, landlord at the Blue Bell in West Mickley who could see his collections cut from weekly to fortnightly, said: "It will be unpleasant if we have nice weather like this and there is rubbish lying around for two weeks.
"At the moment my bins are on a patio close to the beer garden so if we have a smell coming out no one will want to go and sit there.
"The council are the ones that set the standards for hygiene so they are cutting our throats. It is ridiculous."
As well as villages, towns such as Hexham, Haltwhistle and Prudhoe could see cuts.
Some Tynedale business owners said they already had to take regular trips to council tips to get rid of excess rubbish.
But the council report, which will go before the policy and resources committee next week, said that even with the cuts businesses may have to pay more for the service because it is operating at a loss.
The council report says: "It is quite certain that the charges will need to increase to achieve at least a cost-neutral service."
Goao Correia owns Athena's restaurant in Hexham, where the service could be cut from five times a week to three times a week.
He said: "There are hygiene implications and they are just doing it for financial reasons.
"Collection rates have also increased, which means more businesses have had to use private companies."
But Mr Correia said that the introduction of a wheeled bins service - another part of the proposal - would help with the problem.
He said: "The best way to do it is to have wheelie bins and it could work.
"I try to recycle my rubbish and that is a good way to encourage it."
Phil Smith, bar manager at the Lion and Lamb, in Horsley, already pays a private firm to collect waste from his pub, which serves up to 1,000 meals per week.
Horsley is another village where commercial waste collections could be cut from weekly to fortnightly.
Mr Smith said: "If they improved their service they could also make money from the fees that are currently being paid by businesses to private companies."
Services in Haltwhistle could be cut from twice a week to once a week.
Milecastle Inn landlord Kevin Hind said he had already switched to a private collector because he felt the council did not collect often enough. "It is all about health and safety. I said I would have been willing to pay extra for them to make more collections but I was told it wasn't possible.
"Not having enough collections will simply encourage rats."
Bellingham: From twice a week to once a week
Catton: From once a week to fortnightly
Corbridge: Three times a week to once a week
Haltwhistle Main St: Twice a week to once a week
Haydon Bridge: From twice a week to once a week
Hexham town centre: From five times a week to three times a week
Horsley: From once a week to fortnightly
Mickley: From once a week to fortnightly
Ovingham: From once a week to fortnightly
Ovington: From once a week to fortnightly
Prudhoe Main St: From twice a week to once a week/twice for larger producers
Prudhoe Ind. Estate: From once a week to once a week/twice for larger producers
Riding Mill/Broomhaugh: From once a week to fortnightly.
No change in all other areas
Landfill tax piles pressure on authority
Tynedale council said that plans to cut commercial waste collections were at a proposal stage, and that it was evaluating how to provide the service in a cost-effective way.
A spokesman for the council said: "Commercial waste disposal is increasingly more expensive.
"The government's landfill tax has been increased above the rate of inflation for many years and only recently the government announced an even greater increase in the tax in its Waste Strategy for England.
"The council must pay this tax when it disposes of business waste. Its purpose is to discourage the increasing amount of commercial waste being disposed of and the harmful effect this has on the environment.
"Commercial waste collection in such a large, sparsely populated area as Tynedale is expensive to provide.
"The current service to businesses is operating at a loss.
"The council is currently evaluating how it can provide the service more cost effectively but this would mean reducing collection frequencies in approximately one third of the towns and villages it collects from.
"The reduction of collection frequencies would be introduced in tandem with the supply of wheeled bins to store the waste. Wheeled bins provide for better containment of waste and protection against vermin.
"Businesses in the larger towns and villages where most waste is produced and there is less storage space will still receive a weekly collection.
"The council is striving to find the most cost-effective way of providing the service that does not penalise the council tax payer but also limits the increase in the charges to businesses.
"The council will be considering these proposals at its Corporate Policy and Management Board. If the council agrees to implement this we will consult business forums and individual businesses affected."
Different places, different policies
The way in which councils deal with the collection of commercial waste varies .
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: "Businesses can use other companies to collect their waste as this is a competitive market, but they remain responsible for the proper disposal of their waste.
"We work out a service level agreement with private businesses to meet their needs, which is dependent on a number of factors - including the amount of waste produced by the business and the storage capacity they have."
Gateshead Council sold off a number of its disposal operations to a private company, but it still provides a service to businesses which request and pay for it.
This service is available at least once a week, depending on what that particular business wants.
A spokesman for Alnwick District Council said businesses could choose how often they had their rubbish for landfill collected and were charged accordingly. Recycled waste was collected once a fortnight.
A spokesman for Berwick Borough Council said waste was collected from businesses depending on when collection was required, and that most premises had wheeled bins.