Bottle banks closure threat

John Farmery by the bottle banks in the Longridge Booths car park
John Farmery by the bottle banks in the Longridge Booths car park

A charity bottle bank scheme which has raised over £30,000 for research into multiple sclerosis since its launch almost 30 years ago is being threatened with closure due to cost-cutting.

Well-known Longridge resident John Farmery started the banks in 1986 in memory of his wife, Elaine, a multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer.

Over the years, Longridge has given strong support to the former pet shop owner’s fundraising initiative.

Now the county council’s head of waste management, Steve Scott, has recommended stopping payments to community groups and organisations such as Mr Farmery’s, to help a £300m budget reduction in the next four years.

Recently introduced kerbside collections have resulted in a drop in usage of the banks, said Mr Farmery, who feels the days of bottle banks are numbered.

The charity bottle banks on Booths car park were opened with a flourish in 1986 on the then Spar car park by comedian Frank Carson, then president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. As fundraisers for the MS Society and in memory of founder John Farmery’s second wife, Elaine, the banks were well supported by the town and raised an amazing £30,000 plus, including £660 in 2013. Now the discretionary payments made to organisations and community groups by Lancashire County Council could be stopped by April 1 to aid the county’s budget-cutting, with the final decision being made on February 6.

In a statement Mr Farmery said: “I suppose it’s a sign of the times with councils having to save millions of pounds, due to government cuts, but from an economic viewpoint it makes common sense. Glass is now being collected by kerbside collections and bottle banks are therefore only any use in areas where there is no kerbside collection, which in Lancashire seems almost nil. It will be interesting to see what happens to all the other bottle banks. Most are run by local councils, and at the time ours was set up 28 years ago, it was believed to be the only charity one in the country.

“I’m very pleased that the scheme has raised so much money for MS research but sad that this looks like it will be the end of our contributions.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported the scheme, including the staff at Booths and also the former staff of the Spar supermarket.

“My wife Gertie and I will continue our fundraising for the Longridge branch of the Brittle Bone Society.”

Deputy council leader David Borrow said the council was unable to afford paying what could be seen as “a donation” to the charities.