“Garden Tax” for West Lancs

By Catherine Skelton

The West Lancashire Borough Council have decided to join many others and enforce charges for green waste disposal.

After fierce debates, what is currently a free service will now cost residents of West Lancashire £30. More and more counties, especially in the south, have began to introduce similar charges with Kingston upon Thames charging as much as £69 and Scarborough charging £38.

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Wheelie bins on Scarisbrick Street Ormkirk (creative commons – Catherine Skelton)

Council budgets have been cut and  West Lancashire council representatives feel that enforcing charges is the only way to continue such services. Council representative Graham Concannon says ‘It is purely down to the financial climate across local government provision, as green waste collections are not a statutory service the options are to stop providing the service or charge.’

Backlash Can Be Expected

Despite the council’s clear lack of funds, the proposal may receive a backlash from residents who are not used to paying for such services.

An online survey reveals that 69% of people would be put off recycling green waste if they had to pay for the service. This is a risk that the council have taken as it may result in a change in attitude from residents towards recycling.

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Online survey – surveymonkey.co.uk

However, council representatives feel that, despite these statistics, there won’t be any issues and that the charges will be accepted by most residents, who will agree to pay the charge.

“I think the general public deal with all waste in a responsible manner and they will continue in this way. It is the irresponsible few, the hard to reach groups that cause the majority of the problems.” Graham Concannon, West Lancashire council representative.

It is feared that the charge will reduce the amount of recycling residents do as the annual cost of disposal may put them off.

Mrs Anderson, resident of Scarisbrick Street, Ormskirk whilst not welcoming the charge, understands the strain that councils are under and accepts it with a sense of resignation. “The council must be struggling and this is a way of claiming back.” However for many it will be an additional bill to pay every year as Mrs Anderson adds “Along with all the other charges, I’m not keen on paying for something else but I suppose it can’t be avoided.”

The same survey also reveals that 50% of people garden less than monthly. Therefore this may mean that a large proportion of residents may not be affected by the charges on waste disposal as they will choose not to participate in the scheme.

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Online Survey – surveymonkey.co.uk

The local area also has a high population of students and elderly which may not consider recycling as important.

“I live in a student area of West Lancs and nobody I know does any gardening or recycling and I doubt many students will pay for the service”  Thomas Poole, student at Edge Hill University.

Success For Richmond

Richmond council were one of the many councils to impose charges earlier this year. Representative, James Murphy, feels the transition was successful and caused no issues in the area.  “It hasn’t made a massive difference… residents were a bit reluctant at first but the biggest impact has been to the council’s funding”.

He then adds “It has massively improved the council’s funding and finances as we are now  able to afford to provide this service to the public”. However, if charges continue to be imposed, the cuts will eventually affect a large proportion of the population. The cost to fill green bins with compost-able material will not only affect residents but is likely to affect those in the gardening and landscaping industries as well.

The council have also considered the wages they will save for those collecting the bins. It is thought that the less people participating in the scheme, the less bin-men will be needed for collection. This may therefore lead to a reduction in jobs amongst council employees.

This could be considered a risky strategy by the council as it will inevitably mean that every penny of their future spending will be scrutinised very closely to ensure that residents’ money is spent wisely. If any unwarranted spending is identified in the future, people will question whether the charge for green waste collection is really necessary.

Many residents may feel this is a greedy attitude from the council however, with more councils imposing charges, it seems that the whole country will be paying for the disposal of green waste sooner than we think.

Have your say: www.westlancs.gov.uk/yourviews.

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