Suffolk council generates £1.25million in revenue from garden waste charges in just one month
PUBLISHED: 08:13 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 26 June 2018
Increasing numbers of Suffolk councils are making money from charging to collect garden waste - with one district council generating £1.25million in just one month.
Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) only introduced the paid-for service in May, but had over 50% of households signed up by June 10.
A spokesperson for the council said the income should increase as more householders join the scheme throughout the year.
Until this year, SCDC had collected garden waste free of charge – but after the county council urged districts to introduce a charge it decided to levy a £43 annual fee.
Carol Poulter, SCDC’s cabinet member for the green environment, said: “This is not about the council trying to ‘profit’ from garden waste collection. Each year we spend £3.5million on dealing with waste disposal. So the funds raised through the Garden Waste Scheme will allow us to off-set some of that cost, and take pressure off the Council Tax payer, for years to come.”
St Edmundsbury, Waveney and Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils are among those that also charge for bin collections, costing homeowners up to £55 per year.
Waveney introduced the levy in March 2016, and generated roughly £1million in the first and second years of the scheme.
The service used to be covered by council tax contributions – but many authorities are claiming they now have to charge extra to make up for significant cuts to funding.
Out of all the district councils in Suffolk, only Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) does not charge for the service – and leaders have no intention of introducing a levy anytime soon.
IBC waste services portfolio-holder, Phil Smart, said: “We have always said that we would not support any proposal to charge extra for brown bin collections and that remains our position.
“It is not fair to rip off council tax-payers by levying an extra charge – Ipswich will remain the only council in Suffolk not to do this.”
Earlier this month, a task force was set up at councils in west Suffolk to review whether its garden waste scheme is working.
With a new funding structure in place with Suffolk County Council – which has responsibility for waste disposal – from April 2019, a review of the scheme is set to take place.
The group will consider any opportunities to make the process simpler for people when they are paying or making applications to, as well as any need to change collection days, payment options and online information.
The review will take place between July and October this year, before feeding back its findings to the overview and scrutiny committee and shadow executive in November.
Currently Suffolk County Council-run recycling centres accept garden waste free of charge, as it comes under household waste.
BBC consumer series Rip Off Britain: Live has revealed that 53% of UK councils now levy a charge for collecting green waste, with authorities raking in £73.9million in 2016/17.
The figure is up from £42.3 million in 2014/15 and £56.9 million 2015/16.
Responding to the findings, James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Charging for certain services isn’t necessarily a bad thing - there are plenty of times when people ought to pay for what they use. But most of us expect bin collections to be one of the core services councils ought to provide, and taxpayers will not be happy paying again for a service they feel they have already funded. Residents will also not accept increased fees at the same time as constantly-rising council tax, and I cannot blame them.”
Some 172 councils of the 322 that responded to the programme’s requests for information charge for the service, with an average cost to residents of £42.40 a year.
Presenter Gloria Hunniford said: “While clearly some of our viewers are unhappy their garden waste is no longer taken away for free, the results of our survey show it’s unlikely that’s going to change any time soon.
“And with further councils set to introduce such charges, even more of us will need to get used to paying to have our grass clippings taken away”.
A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils in England face an overall funding gap that will exceed £5billion by 2020.
“Some councils were able to provide free garden waste services when they were first introduced but are now having to charge to reflect the growing cost of providing a collection service.
“Money from garden waste collection charges goes back into maintaining the service.”