District and borough councils have denied claims that money given to them by West Sussex to boost recycling rates had not been used for that purpose.
And one council said that some figures used to help justify a reduction in the amount of recycling credits they received were ‘not accurate’.
The credits are paid by the county to second-tier councils for every tonne of waste sent for recycling rather than to landfill.
At a recent select committee meeting, in Chichester, Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment, described the system as ‘not fit for purpose’, and suggested some money was being put into reserves rather than into recycling projects.
Her decision to reduce the credits was called in for debate by other councillors.
Horsham, Arun and Chichester District Councils along with Crawley Borough Council have all provided details of projects being funded with the credits.
A spokesman for Arun said: “The decision report indicates that recycling rates across the county have not seen any significant improvement since 2010 and that the recycling credit payments as an incentive mechanism have therefore not been effective.
“As indicated within the call-in, the assertion around recycling levels is not accurate as Waste Collection Authorities in West Sussex have shown improvement in recycling rates since 2013/14.”
A Crawley spokesman said that for West Sussex to focus solely on the recycling rate was ‘short-sighted’ and ‘fundamentally undervalues the work going on behind the scenes’.
He added: “The income that we receive from West Sussex County Council for recycling credits goes directly to support recycling.
“The budget – of which this is only part – includes payments to our contractor, Biffa, to undertake the collections as well as marketing, publicity and engagement with residents to maintain and improve the quantity and quality of materials.”
Describing the decision to reduce the credits as ‘unfortunate’, a spokesman for Horsham District Council said the money had been used on ‘various initiatives which have significantly helped to improve our district’s recycling rates’.
She added: “The council has used the recycling credit income on a number of projects which have all played a major role in increasing recycling levels across the district.”
A Chichester spokesman said: “As well as increasing the quantity being recycled, a lot of other work has been going on behind the scenes at districts and boroughs to increase the quality of materials being recycled.
“This work has focused on reducing recycling contamination to ensure that the material sorted at the central Materials Recycling Facility in Ford can be easily marketed.”
Mid Sussex and Worthing & Adur councils did not respond to a request for information.