Council accused of 'taxing the blind'
A RETIRED pilot has severely criticised his local council for imposing what he claims is a “tax on the blind”.John Gerrish, who is blind himself, is accusing Babergh District Council of discrimination for charging him £30 a year to have his garden rubbish taken away.
A RETIRED pilot has severely criticised his local council for imposing what he claims is a “tax on the blind”.
John Gerrish, who is blind himself, is accusing Babergh District Council of discrimination for charging him £30 a year to have his garden rubbish taken away.
Mr Gerrish, of Lawshall, near Bury St Edmunds, says the authority is in effect imposing a £30 tax for being disabled and elderly by charging him for his brown waste bin.
The 80 year-old, who says he has no choice but to pay the annual levy as he is unable to get to his nearest dump, has campaigned for three years to reverse a the charge.
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“It isn't about the money,” he said. “The principle is that there is no choice other than to pay the charge. It is a tax on being blind, disabled or elderly.
“It is a wicked and unjust scheme and I am campaigning on behalf of people who don't have a choice.”
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Alan Webster executive manager for the West Suffolk Voluntary Association for the Blind, said he believed the council's behaviour had been “horrendous”.
“They are meant to go the extra mile for disabled people,” he said. “I've seen correspondence with Babergh and they are trying to justify their position.
“But the Disability Discrimination Act is not about getting round the law. What I think they are doing is discriminating in exactly the way the act is meant to prevent.
“It is blinkered and money orientated and there is no concern for people because it is driven by numbers.”
Helen Taylor, Information Manager from Age Concern Suffolk, said: “We feel that Babergh District Council's policy on charging householders who require a brown bin is hitting local older and disabled people most.
“It is quite understandable that residents in the Babergh area would expect the cost of basic waste disposal facilities, such as the provision of a garden waste bin, to be covered by their Council Tax.
“I am not aware of a charge being imposed by other councils in Suffolk and I am very disappointed that Babergh have imposed this charge, although I do understand that the council is offering some concession on the cost to people on low incomes”
A spokesman for Babergh said: “The Disability Discrimination Act requires the council to ensure those with disabilities have equal access to services.
“One of the ways the act achieves this is by imposing a duty to 'make reasonable adjustments' to a service. In the case of Mr Gerrish we have made such an adjustment by offering to take his bin to and from his property so as to avoid him or his wife having to present it at the kerbside.
“The Disability Discrimination Act does not require that services should be given free of cost by virtue of a disability. In short, it does not require that Babergh provides a free brown bin service to disabled people.”