GARDENERS will have to pay to have their clippings and cuttings taken away from next year.

Durham County Council currently provides a free garden waste collection service to 151,700 households around the county.

But from April 2015, a charge of £20 a year, or £1.25 per collection, will apply.

Residents will be asked if they want to opt in to the scheme, which will be offered to 186,000 households.

Those signing up for three years will get a £10 discount, reducing the three-year fee to £50.

The change is expected to save the council, which faces cuts of more than £200m, £933,000 a year.

The introduction of the charge was delayed from this April.

Liberal Democrats say the “garden tax” will lead to more fly tipping and they will push for it to be scrapped.

But Terry Collins, the council’s corporate director for neighbourhood services, said 35 per cent of English councils already charge for garden waste collections.

Simon Henig, the council’s Labour leader, said: “We have to look at everything and unfortunately now it’s necessary to cover our costs in terms of this service.”

He said the extension of the service to more households put “everyone on an even playing field”.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s necessary to have to charge but unfortunately that’s where we are.

“It was a good thing to provide a free service but we can’t anymore.”

Deputy leader Alan Napier said those who believed all services could be provided free of charge were living in “Disney land”.