FREE garden waste collections in Inverclyde are for the chop - but not until next year.

But the recently-agreed new charge for brown bin uplifts will not come into force until 2020, the council has confirmed.

Seasonal garden waste kerbside collections are currently free for Inverclyde householders but there will be a fee from next year to help the local authority save money and generate more income.

It is expected the service will cost £30 a year.

A spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: "We aren't introducing charges for brown bins until next year. "We will be launching an information campaign nearer the time to let people know exactly how the new system will work. "People will have to opt into the system and then an identifier will be put on their bin. "Council employees will also have route sheets showing where to do collections. "We regret that it has become necessary to introduce charges for this service but the financial position for all local authorities in Scotland is getting harder and harder."

The brown bin fee was approved in the council budget last month.

It will generate an overall saving of £237,000 and result in the loss of one full-time employee.

Officials say 22,000 households currently benefit from the free service and they estimate a 56 per cent 'take up' for the paid-for replacement.

Councillors voted through £7m worth of savings over the next two years, including the loss of nearly 60 jobs, to plug a funding gap following another reduction in the Scottish Government core grant for local authorities.

According to independent council spending watchdog, the Accounts Commission, the Inverclyde budget has had a 'higher than average' cut of 10.3 per cent since 2013.

Local officials say they will have to find a further £16m of savings in the next three years unless there is an improvement in the financial settlement from central government.

The council estimates that the brown bin changes will deliver additional income of £370k, although that would be offset by a £163k rise in costs from an increase in the number of people expected to turn to recycling centres to dump their garden waste.