BARROW’S council is locked in a legal dispute with its waste contractors over thousands of pounds of unpaid cash for recycling.

Barrow Borough Council and FCC Environment disagree over how much the authority should have received from the sale of recycled waste, a meeting heard.

To generate a revenue stream for the council, FCC is contracted to pay a share of the income generated from the sale of recycled materials.

But council officers Keith Johnson and John Penfold told a committee meeting the authority had not received ‘a penny’.

The seven-year contract with FCC started more than two years ago.

The issues emerged at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in Barrow Town Hall.

Cllr Les Hall told the meeting the council was missing out on ‘thousands of pounds’ intended for council coffers and spent across the borough.

He asked how much the council should have received but was told the matter was in legal hands.

Mr Johnson, an assistant director, replied: “We know what we should have got, but our legal team and FCC’s legal team are locking horns over it.”

Mr Penfold told councillors:  “Because we are in dispute, we haven’t received any money up to now. Since the contract was agreed things have changed.

“China doesn’t really want any contaminated materials so it is not as easy to sell, and the value of recyclables has fallen. At the moment we cannot say how much recycling money we are getting in.”

The committee has now pledged to tighten up its contract with FCC.

Councillors have agreed to visit its household waste recycling plant on Walney Road to assess operations and suggest improvements.

And council bosses have also pledged to improve communication with residents about what can and cannot be recycled.

The meeting heard that the public had an important role to play in improving the borough’s recycling rates, which are in the bottom three in the entire country at under 20 per cent.

But Cllr Bill McEwan said: “There are certain areas in the town where people will not recycle at all. It doesn’t matter how much you tell them.”

Cllr Hall told the meeting that Barrow’s rate was ‘appalling’.

“I don’t see why it’s so difficult to do in Barrow but every other area seems to manage to do it. There are obviously issues and I think getting a look at the operation is a good idea,” said Cllr Hall.

However, Cllr Steve Robson cautioned against allowing some people to effectively opt out by providing them with single bin for all waste.

Cllr Robson said: “On that basis, we would all still be smoking in pubs and not wearing seat belts, wouldn’t we? We have to take people along with us, however long it takes.”

Cllr Frank Cassidy pledged that things would improve. “This is a hugely important issue for the people of Barrow and all of us are going to give it a really good crack to try and get things sorted,” he said.

Alan Barker, the council’s Streetcare manager, said June saw 137 ‘missed bins’ reported by residents.

Of these, 79 contained recycling items, although 76 were then declared ‘contaminated recycling,’ where recyclates had been mixed with other waste.

FCC Environment was asked for a comment but did not provide one.