Councils and public split on free garden waste collection proposals

Should garden waste be collected for free? Picture: ARCHANT

Should garden waste be collected for free? Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

A turf war has broken out between the local councils and the Government over whether garden waste should be collected for free.

the governments new waste strategy could make all garden waste collection free - but councils argue

the governments new waste strategy could make all garden waste collection free - but councils argue the service has to be "fully funded" to work Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Free collection of garden waste is being considered by the Government - but councils are insisting any cost involved in providing it must be “fully funded”.

A new waste strategy being considered by the Government is promising to consult on whether households with gardens should have access to free collections for garden waste, such as grass cuttings, twigs, plant and hedge clippings.

Six of Suffolk’s seven district councils currently charge while two of the five district councils in north Essex also do - making it far from a level playing field for residents. Only Ipswich Borough Council offers it for free.

Michael Talbot, portfolio holder for Tendring District Council where the annual cost is £50, said: “A lot of people do not have garden waste collection at all - some properties are flats or simply don’t need to have their garden waste collected regularly - but the number of people using the service is increasing all the time.

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“We do not all generate garden waste and to ask those without gardens to pay for it would be very unfair.

“It would need to be paid for by government if it’s a government idea.

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“We would regret the loss in income and it would be a very major change to the service and no something I would in any way welcome.”

David Bowman, cabinet member for operations for Forest Heath District Council– which charges £43 per year – said he would happy for residents not to be charged should the government fund the service.

“We have quite a take up on it so I don’t think the charge is putting people off,” he said.

“But if the government want to fund it then I’d be happy to go back to a free service.

“But there is an awful lot that needs to be worked out before that can happen.”

Two thirds of councils in England charge for the service too, according to a survey published by the Press Association.

The service is free in Cambridge and three nearby Essex districts, Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree.

Maldon charges £46, Tendring charges £50, and all three Norfolk authorities charge at least £48.

Suffolk residents were also split on the subject, with arguments about the cost to residents pitted against environmental issues.

Bee Wiles said: “It may be free in Ipswich, but IBC council tax is considerably higher than neighbouring councils who give you a choice of paying around £40.

“If it’s in your council tax, it means everyone pays, whether they have a garden or not.

“90p a week seems a small price to pay for collection and removal of garden waste. If you don’t like it, make a compost heap or take it to the free local recycling centre.”

Babergh resident Rob Howard said: “I’m not paying £50 for my garden waste this year. It seems to only gets collected during the summer, so that’s £10 per collection.

“It wouldn’t be too bad if we got something like bags of compost or vouchers back, but we get nothing.

“It feels very unfair considering Ipswich don’t pay for their garden waste collection.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said any changes to waste services that put more of a cost burden on councils already under huge financial pressure need to be fully funded.

Martin Tett, environment spokesman for the LGA, said: “Any changes to waste services and additional cost burdens on councils, who are already under enormous financial pressure, need to be fully funded.”

He also said councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 between 2010 and 2020, and it was “vital” the forthcoming Government spending review fully funded the local services communities relied on.

The warning comes as research by the Press Association shows that, of 326 English councils which pick up rubbish and recycling from homes, 212 of them (65%) charge for a garden waste collection service.

A spokesman for the Environment Department said: “Free garden waste collections would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions through less garden waste being sent to landfill, but would also see more waste composted, which is cheaper for local authorities than landfill disposal.

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