Tomorrow afternoon's Brent Cabinet will be discussing a proposal to charge residents £40 per year for the collection of garden green waste. At the ame time dry cycling will be collected weekly instead of fortnightly and caddy food waste will be collected weekly.
Dubbed a 'garden tax' by some there are fears that garden waste not suitable for composting will end up in the grey residual bins or dumped at the roadside.
Charging for green waste seems at odds with Labour's previous condemnation of charging for bulk waste collections. (Read on for detailed submission by Brent Friends of the Earth)
Afer the 2014 election Labour decided not to charge for 3 collections a year drawing this comment from Cllr Krupesh Hirani LINK:
Residents in my Ward are delighted that collection of bulky waste items is now free again under Labour and I’m sure that all residents across Brent will be pleased too.
The Lib Dems in Brent Council introduced a £25 charge for the collection of bulky items from resident’s homes. Brent Labour opposed this – the service was free of charge before 2006. The £25 charge led to a massive reduction of people arranging for collections. So where was all this bulky waste going? Quite visibly, local residents were spotting bulky items dumped on their road. Charging from the Lib Dems produced a free license to dump and led to real eyesores around my Ward and even health hazards.Many would argue that the new charge will produce the impact described in the last sentence - but this time for green waste.
I am also concerned that the charge will lead to some, particularly landlords, being tempted to do away with garden greenery entirely so as to avoid the charge. Gardens are already under pressure from paving over for car parking with estate agents keen to advertise 'low maintenance' gardens for people who lack the time to maintain a garden.
This of course has an affect on run-off and potential flooding in the context of extreme weather events.
Another way of dealing with garden waste will of course be to burn it in the back garden, increasing smoke nuisance and air pollution.
There is already a minimum £19 charge per car (Details of charges HERE) at the Park Royal Recycling Centre and this additional charge erodes further the principle of council services provided in exchange for general taxation and council tax.
Meanwhile local resident Martin Redston has written to Muhammed Butt, leader of the council, with some pertinent comments:
Dear Cllr Butt,
Thank you for the statement in this week's Willesden Times explaining that your proposed £40 per year charge for Garden Waste disposal will 'only' cost me 80 pence per week. Are you actually a gardener? Are you aware of the seasonal nature of the disposal? Let me explain:I have a modest garden with lots of trees and shrubs.Being a good Brent eco-citizen I have a Composter which takes any softer stuff, weeds,grass and clippings etc.
- November to February...nothing grows. I usually clear and prune hedges and shrubs etc, so possibly 4 bins in total.
- March to June...growing starts. Some cutting back, so possibly another 4 bins.
- July to October. Cutting back etc every two weeks, so 8 to 10 bins.Thus maximum 18 bins in all, per year.18 bins at 80 pence is £14.40. Where do I send the cheque?Finally I thought the little green bin had to be emptied (every day or two) into the big organic bin, so what will happen to these?By the way the proposed charges are apparently to fund weekly Blue Recycling bin collections. Whilst others with big households may need additional collections, it takes me two weeks to fill mine, so if I ask for my two weekly collection to continue, can I have a rebate? Please.Now a question: why can't we go back to putting cardboard into the green bin for bulk composting like we did under the previous 'small green box' scheme? It makes a lot of eco-sense and uses up the spare green bin capacity in the Winter 'gift giving' season, when there isn't any green waste!!
BackgroundIn response to proposed changes to Brent's Waste Strategy in 2010 Brent Friends of the Earth made a number of suggestions, including introducing a small charge for the collection of garden waste. At that time we cited Somerset Waste Partnership who were charging around £15 a year for a bin collected fortnightly, or £10 for 10 bags. We believed it would encourage home composting, enriching garden soils and encourage growing fruit and vegetables. We understood that in terms of reducing emissions it is better for waste to be composted in people's gardens or local schemes, as opposed to transporting it to centralised sites.Brent did not take on board this or many of our other suggestions in 2010, which were based on environmental principles and evidence of best practice. It seems that Brent is now reviewing its strategy, not on environmental grounds, but because of financial pressures.We would now like to raise the following concerns and suggestions:EmissionsThe driver for any new scheme should not simply be financial, but one that achieves an overall reduction in CO2. An environmental impact survey should cover the whole process. In 2010 we suggested a low cost opt in scheme for green waste collection on the basis that it would reduce emissions. However we are very concerned that CO2 emissions would be "slightly worse" due to the fewer but less fuel efficient vehicles that will be used by Veolia in this new scheme. How does this impact on Brent's carbon reduction targets? We urge the Cabinet to review this point in particular to minimise and not increase emissions.Charges and EqualityThe £40 charge is for green waste collection is higher than we would support. Whilst we appreciate that this would be 20% less i.e. £32 for older residents and those in receipt of means tested benefits, this is still a significant cost. Moreover there are a great many people in the borough on a low income and in food and fuel poverty, who do not fall into those categories. This will be an additional charge they can ill afford. Brent's own Equality Impact Assessment demonstrated that there will be "little impact for residents, apart from those older residents on low incomes or those with a disability on a low income".Whilst we wholeheartedly support encouraging home composting, are the charges proposed for supply and delivery of compost bins - £22 for the smaller and £25 for a larger bin sufficiently low enough to encourage widespread take up, especially amongst lower income groups? Why are no further discounts are being offered to these groups?Households with smaller gardens will struggle to deal with space to adequately home compost all their garden waste. Why not offer residents the white sack scheme (if it still exists) on an occasional basis - or could Brent collect a small number of sacks of garden waste (and compost it) under the Bulky Waste collection scheme?Residents with larger gardens and therefore more green waste are likely to already be paying more in terms of their Council tax.Any extra charge is likely to be unpopular and seen as unfair.CommunicationsWill sufficient information be available to support residents over this change, not only in terms of the changes in collection, but advice and information on home composting for those with no experience or knowledge on this practice. Will Brent sign up to Garden Organic's Master Gardeners scheme to support residents?How will Brent address language barriers within its communications strategy?Is the communications budget adequate to convey changes effectively to gain public support?Contamination of other bins and fly tippingThose residents who do have their green bins taken away are likely to dispose of garden waste in their recycling or residual waste bins, with further cost to the Council. Has this been factored in?Brent should beware to avoid the fiasco that took place when Birmingham City Council imposed a £35 charge. This lead to considerable gridlock at waste disposal sites and increased fly tipping. They should also take note from residents' dissatisfaction in Merton, Ealing and elsewhere.Is the free municipal recycling centre adequately resourced for an increase in garden waste? Can Brent guarantee it will not lead to traffic chaos? Will this service remain free in the future?Food WasteWe support Brent's aim of extending the collection of food waste to all households and offering a weekly collection. Will the outdoor container for food waste be fox-proof and adequate in size?Community CompostingWe would encourage Brent to consider alternatives such as supporting community composting schemes, which could cover both food and garden waste, and providing local hire schemes for electric shredders, so that residents can manage more woody garden waste. For example Aardvark Recycling in SE London collects household and restaurant food waste for composting in a rocket composter. Schemes on estates in Hackney have achieved an 80% participation rate. Community composting of food waste using rocket composters should also be considered. This avoids unnecessary transportation of waste and prevents problems with rodents.Composting and wormeries could be also introduced in schools and this would educate children to home compost.Impact on Waste Tonnages and Recycling"It is anticipated that implementing these changes will have no significant impact on the Council’s recycling rate." Surely Brent are looking to maximise recycling and minimise waste to landfill? What are the projected landfill charges as a result of this proposed scheme compared to current levels?Is more frequent collection of dry recyclables really needed? We are not aware that these materials are being flytipped. We suggest it is re-education about materials that can be recycled in the blue bins that is needed rather than more frequent collection.We recommend Brent rethink the policy to one that:-ensures that reductions in waste to landfill and emissions are achieved-maximises recycling-supports and increases home and local composting-is not prohibitively expensive for residents-is well conveyed to residents such that public satisfaction and a more realistic level of cost savings are achieved.
Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, has also issued a statement:
The Council's proposals are bad news for residents and bad news for the environment. Hard-pressed families will wonder why they are being asked to pay an additional charge just to have their rubbish collected. Charging for green waste collections will also harm the environment, as green waste will end up in grey bins and won't be recycled.Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Brent Central, Ibrahim Taguri, said:
I urge the Council to look again at these plans.
While the Council's proposals are troubling, they're certainly not surprising. This is what we've come to expect from Labour, imposing stealth taxes on hardworking residents for basic services.
Actions like this just highlight the need for transparency to keep the Labour-controlled council to account.I sincerely hope the Council will reconsider this proposal.