CITY and county councillors have voted to protect the current bin waiver scheme, which provides subsidised lifts over 5,000 people across Limerick.
But council boss Conn Murray has warned as a result of this, the scheme may run out of cash and close by the summer.
And he has said he will take legal advice on the matter.
There are currently two separate bin waiver schemes operational in Limerick.
One in the former city area provides a free bin collection every two weeks to pensioners, and every three weeks for the unemployed, with the service costing around €250, with the subvention in the old county district slightly less.
But in council this Wednesday, director of service Kieran Lehane outlined plans to create a unified scheme, which would see pensioners given a subsidy in the form of a voucher worth €115 per year, while those on disabilities, invalidity, one parent families and deserted wives would get €85 a year.
People on job seekers allowance are being cut out of the new scheme.
However, in a rare show of unity, councillors almost unanimously blocked this move, despite huge opposition from the executive.
There were some angry words exchanged in the Chamber with Cllr John Gilligan accusing management of “dictating” a policy which councillors ultimately have the final say on.
Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler described the scrapping of the current scheme as “short-sighted”, adding: “Prevention is better than cure – if we cut this waiver, people will be forced to turn to illegal outlets. We should retain the current system and come together as a collective to see what can be done about it.”
Cllr Elena Secas, Labour, warned: “People will have no choice but to build up rubbish in their back gardens which will lead to other health issues”.
Cllr Cian Prendiville of the Anti-Austerity Alliance, said that under the new scheme, people could face bills of up to €287, if you take into account the Local Property Tax.
Back at budget time in January, councillors agreed to allocate €540,000 to the bin waiver scheme.
Several councillors have now called for more money to be allocated to the scheme from elsewhere.
But head of finance Tom Gilligan insisted there is no possibility of further investment.
This claim was rubbished by his namesake, Cllr Gilligan, who said: “What we are short of here is will. Of course you can add more money. I am not going to sit here and be dictated to.”
Fine Gael leader John Sheahan said: “If there is a weather disaster in the winter-time, you would have no problem finding extra money for salt. Let us be the social conscience of the city and county. It is not going to run to astronomical sums.”
With management indicating the budget is not for changing, the Glin councillor challenged this, adding: “We do not know how much we are going to take from the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge. Are we going to tell people that we cannot take money off people, because it is not in our budget? Do not give me a bottom line of €540,000”.
But Mr Gilligan hit back, saying: “If we adopt this approach, we will have a free for all.”
It was Cllr Sheahan who proposed the current bin waiver be maintained until a more equitable waiver be agreed, seconded by Cllr Gilligan.
But Mr Murray warned: “We are no longer in ‘estimates’ territory, we are in a very strict budgetary process. I will have to take legal advice to see how we proceed. If we do run out of money, the scheme closes.”