Accusations that Ealing Council wasted money on a recycling scheme were rejected by a Cabinet member today, who accused his opponents of “sour grapes”.

Bassam Mahfouz, the Cabinet member for Transport and the Environment, defended the Recycling Rewards scheme, which Conservative councillors Colm Costello and Phil Taylor had criticised as a “waste of money”.

The Recycling Rewards scheme was set up to measure the participation rates of recycling in different wards in Ealing.

However, Councillor Costello (Hobbayne), and Councillor Taylor (Northfield) criticised the campaign for spending £30000 on advertising and for failing to raise participation rates across the borough.

Councillor Taylor said although the council should be commended for trying something new, the policy had clearly been a failure.

“It is definitely the right challenge to try to increase recycling rates. We have to increase participation rates to improve recycling,” he said.

“The council need to take on board that it didn’t work.”

Following an initial measurement in September 2010, wards were given six months to improve, and told that the ward with the highest participation rate and the three most improved boroughs would each receive £20,000 to be spent by ward forums.

Last week, Elthorne and Hobbayne split the award for the highest participation rate, and South Acton, Southfields and Northolt Mandeville picked the awards from most improved.

Although South Acton raised it participation rates by 6.1 percentage points, Dormer’s Well saw its rates fall by 6.2%, and participation rates across the borough appear not to have changed.

Across the borough, 12 wards saw participation rates rise, ten saw rates fall, and one saw no change.

Councillor Taylor and Councillor Costello both agreed the money would have been better spent on a door-to-door campaign in wards with the lowest participation rates.

Of the recent scheme, Councillor Costello said: “I think it was well intentioned but very badly thought out.”

He added that he thought the council should not have spent the money promoting the scheme when it was having to make cuts elsewhere.

“It is a waste of council taxpayers’ money,” he said.

“People are losing their jobs and the council spent £30,000 advertising something that didn’t work in the end.

“It was a gimmick. They are trying to raise their own profile.”

However, Councillor Mahfouz accused Councillor Taylor of “sour grapes” because Northfield’s participation rates had fallen and argued Councillor Costello and Taylor’s door-to-door scheme would have cost more money.

He said: “Rather than putting money into extra members of staff, the idea of it was to encourage councillors to do that knocking on doors, and where that happened, we did see participation go up.”

Councillor Mahfouz also pointed out that the council managed to save £231, 148 in landfill tax while the competition was running, because of an increase in the amount of rubbish collected for recycling, and a decrease in the amount sent to landfill.

“I think it’s pretty straight forward that it’s been value for money,” he said.

“We have seen recycling go up even though you cannot see that in the participation rates. That’s got to be a good thing.”

Councillor Mahfouz added this is why the reward money was then given to the best-performing wards.

He said: “The whole point of the campaign is that if you help us to save money, then we’ll give you some of that money back.”

Councillor Mahfouz also explained that although the money given to ward forums would not necessarily be used for recycling, it would be spent on environmental projects, and, more importantly, would be spent on what residents thought was important.