South Gloucestershire Council’s communities committee agreed a range of decisions on future kerbside waste collections at its meeting last night, including a deeply unpopular charge on garden waste.
From next year, more mixed plastics, drinks cartons and small electrical items will be able to be left on the kerb while people living in flats will benefit from new collection arrangements. In order to mitigate reductions in Government funding, however, the committee also agreed to impose a £36 a year charge for green bin collection and an alternative option to purchase ‘pay as you go’ bags for garden waste at £2 each. The change will raise an estimated £1.2m a year.
The decision follows the contentious consultation exercise on future waste collection carried out in January when the only ‘free’ option – suspending green bin collection during the winter months – was removed from the final list of choices presented in the questionnaire. It subsequently emerged that out of almost 2,000 responses received, 40% of respondents actually refused to select any of the three remaining choices on the form regarding charges for garden waste disposal. After 28th March 2014, anyone not wanting to pay for a green bin or pre-paid sacks will be expected to take their garden waste to their nearest council recycling centre.
The committee vote in favour of the changes was by a majority and not unanimous. Conservative party members voted against the proposal and their leader on the committee, Cllr James Hunt from Emersons Green, pictured, said: “Like so many residents, I’m disappointed that Labour and Lib Dem councillors have ambushed the public and voted to impose green bin charging after a sham consultation. Residents have pointed out how this move will damage our local environment by increasing fly-tipping, backyard burning and black bin usage, which will cut the district’s recycling rate.
“The fact that more residents snubbed the consultation question on bin charging than chose another option shows that opposition councillors were wrong to remove the only free option from the consultation at the last minute.”
However, his Labour counterpart on the committee said that charging was unavoidable and the agreed solution was the least painful. Pat Rooney, councillor for Woodtsock, said: “Nobody wants to impose charges for a service that is currently free, and I recognise how unpopular this decision will be. However, the council is staring at a black hole in its finances and is being forced by Government cuts to slash services. We have concluded that this is the least worst option.”
Currently, South Gloucestershire Council is one of the top five councils in the country for recycling with an average rate for household waste of 53.1%. Government targets are for all councils to recycle more than 50% by 2020 – the current average standing at 43%.