Charging for garden waste in Flintshire is just the start

Reporter:

David Humphreys

Introducing garden waste charges was “possibly one of the more palatable” financial choices Flintshire Council has to make, a leading councillor said.

Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and environment, said things were “only going to get worse” because austerity was “biting” hard.

Cllr Thomas made the stark warning as the environment scrutiny committee debated the council decision to bring in garden waste charges from next spring.

Almost £1m could be generated through charging for garden waste collections.

Based on an assumption that 40 per cent of households sign up to Flintshire Council’s revised tariffed collection scheme, up to £958,000 could be made by the authority.

It is thought £828,000 could be brought in through implementing an annual charge of £30 per brown bin of garden waste.

Another £130,000 could come in through operational savings.

Charges for second and third bins will be £30 per bin per year with the service operating from March 1 to November 30 on a fortnightly basis from the kerbside.

Steve Jones, chief officer for Streetscene and transportation, said: “This is the start of the difficult process to set the budget.”

He added the decision to move towards charges was done with a “heavy heart” but garden waste collections remained a discretionary service and was in line with the Welsh Government blueprint on recycling.

Mr Jones added many residents were within a 15-minute drive of household recycling centres (HRC) – which “softens the blow”.

The chief officer said it was important to use the first season as a “period of listening and learning” on how Flintshire might have to amend the charges or introduce concessions.

Mr Jones said fees for compost – currently free at HRC sites and made from collected garden waste – could also be introduced.

Streetscene manager Harvey Mitchell said the first month of the scheme would be free and used to inform residents of the need to sign up to the tariff if desired.

Those who choose not to take advantage of the new service can have their brown bin collected in March free of charge or they can deposit it at a HRC site.

Outlining the financial position behind the decision to introduce charges, Labour Cllr Thomas said: “This is austerity biting – our backs are up against the wall.

“I know things are tight for people and it might be difficult to find that extra £30.

“Austerity is biting and it's going to get worse. This is possibly one of the more palatable items.

“We're being strangled as a local authority by government.

“Unless there's a change, I don't know where we are going to go.”

Cllr Paul Shotton (Lab) said residents could see the “difficult decisions facing Flintshire due to continuing austerity” and he hoped the Chancellor would “change tack” in tomorrow’s budget.

Mr Jones said his portfolio was facing a “double whammy” of a grant funding reduction alongside the need to meet financial targets.

Cllr Mike Peers, leader of the opposition Independent Alliance group, said the council needed to look at other funding.

He cited a £1.8m overspend and added: “It's not just austerity, it's how we use our own money.”

Cllr Peers said in comparison to other local authorities which charge for garden waste collections, residents in Flintshire were getting a “poor deal”.

He added the charges “require revision”.

He was supported by Cllr Veronica Gay (Ind) who said there were “too many what ifs” about the plans.

She said the charges did not seem to be “well thought through” and said taking waste to an HRC site was ”impossible without a vehicle” in areas such as her own in Saltney.

“I think they need to be reviewed a little bit more,” she said.

Cllr Andy Dunbobbin (Lab) welcomed the idea of concessions, “particularly for OAPs” and said charging for compost “could be used to offset costs”. But based on the results of a Leader poll, most residents indicated they would not wish to pay for the collections.

Cllr Dunbobbin added: “I'd rather pay than face shutting things down and have money put into our children's education and health.”

Cllr Cindy Hinds (Lab) said a £30 charge “is nothing”.

Cllr Dave Hughes (Lab) said he found it difficult to compare with other local authorities as “others get more money”.

Cllr Chris Bithell, Labour cabinet member for planning and public protection, added the “austerity programme means we have to address issues” and garden waste collections “is a service we don't have to provide at all”.

Email:

david.humphreys@nwn.co.uk

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