A WAR of words has broken out over claims Bromley Council's new waste contract may damage pensioners' health.

Liberal Democrats claim the borough's elderly could be injured if plans for new kerbside collections are introduced instead of refuse collectors picking up rubbish from homes.

They say residents will struggle to carry heavy bags of rubbish into the street.

But Conservative council leader Councillor Michael Tickner has hit back, saying those who need assistance will get it.

The row follows last month's announcement of a 14-year contract awarded to French firm Onyx (UK), which would change the way rubbish is collected, enabling paper, glass, plastics and cans to be recycled. The controversial kerbside collection service will come into operation from February 2003

But despite saving more than £150,000 a year, the new scheme has been blasted by several opposition councillors and residents. Liberal Democrat councillor Helen Rabbatts, who represents Crofton Ward, raised concerns at a full council meeting on September 3.

She said: "This scheme has not been thoroughly thought through. It is going to severely agitate old people by making them drag their rubbish to the front of the house.

"What worries me is old people tend to be conformists. If they are told to do something they will attempt to do it.

"If this goes forward, I can see the elderly suffering bad backs and slipping up on the driveway."

Orpington resident Andrew Purkiss, 75, agreed, saying: "I'm not very happy about these plans as I don't feel the council has considered the needs of elderly people.

"I believe this will be an extra burden on the health service as it is bound to cause injuries.

But Conservative leader Councillor Michael Tickner hit back at the accusations, saying: "These are just scaremongering tactics. The opposition is just trying to pick holes in the new contract.

"We are prepared to make special arrangements for people unable to take their bins to the front. This will certainly not affect people's health."

September 11, 2001 10:34

Matt Bamsey