Row over charges for garden waste continues
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A political row has broken out over plans to charge residents for garden waste collections.
The Lib-Dem administration at St Albans district council wants to introduce a charge from the fortnightly service in the summer in response to the adverse impact of the pandemic on their finances.
Households would be expected to pay £45 a year to have a green wheelie bin or reusable sacks emptied, the equivalent of 87p a week.
Many other local authorities already charge for the service, including some in Herts, but Conservative rivals have accused the Lib Dems of imposing a "garden tax" which will hit those residents on low incomes the hardest.
When the proposals were considered by a meeting of the community, environment and sport scrutiny committee last week, members voted to ask the council's Cabinet to revisit certain aspects, including whether the charge was fair on elderly, disabled and low-income households, and how it would deal with an increase in leaves on pavements and roads if households stopped sweeping them up.
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Committee chair Cllr Annie Brewster said the committee understood the charge was one way of trying to mitigate for the losses to council revenues caused by the coronavirus public health emergency, but said low income households could struggle with the additional expense.
She added: “There was also some concern that people who opt out of the charge may put garden material into their brown waste bin, reducing the amount of money the council receives from a recycling scheme. In addition, those residents choosing not to join the scheme would still be expected to store their green bins on their property."
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The proposals have already prompted a pledge from the district's Conservative group to reverse the charge should they win control of the council in May's elections.
The group describes the charge as a "garden tax" which penalises residents in smaller homes, claiming it will lead to shabbier neighbourhoods, more fly-tipping and more queues and delays at waste sites.
Conservative leader Cllr Mary Maynard said: "At a time when so many people are struggling with the economic consequences of Covid, the Liberal Democrats impose a tax that hits residents on smaller incomes hardest.
"I promise residents that if we take control of the district in May, we will overturn this miserly decision and not charge for green waste collection."
Council leader Cllr Chris White responded: "This council is in a dire situation thanks to years of reduced support from central government and the impact of the pandemic.
"Collecting green waste costs us over £600,000 every year. Introducing this charge - equivalent to 87p per week or £1.74 per collection - will help us to maintain other essential services.
"It is extraordinary that the Conservatives cannot grasp the unfairness that people who live in flats are paying for this service without receiving any benefit - and many also have to pay a separate service charge for the removal of communal area garden waste."
Cllr Anthony Rowlands, whose portfolio includes waste collection said: "The concerns of the committee relating to how the new charge will impact on more vulnerable residents are already being addressed as we plan implementation. Officers and our contractor will be instructed to provide advice and support. We have also pledged to review the operation of the scheme regularly."
Cllr Will Tucker, a member of the scrutiny committee said: "The Tory members of the Committee were unable to explain how they would do things differently.
"Representing thousands of residents who live in flats in the city centre, I can understand why they feel that it is fair to levy a modest charge for a service they cannot use."
What do you think about the plans to charge residents for fortnightly green waste collections? Have your say and email the Herts Ad with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org