Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Green Garden Waste Charge – You tell us we got it wrong!

The summary results of the consultation are out and perhaps not unexpectedly the vast majority of responses (71%) stated that the £35 charge for collection of garden waste is not liked. What was surprising was that there were 18% of respondents who said they did agree with it!


Part of the consultation form asked what alternative charge should be made, if any. Although 52% were prepared to make some contribution towards collection, there was no consensus as to how much.


There was some good news which was that there was strong support for all the other measures we had introduced, and initial reports indicate that there has been a reduction in overall waste produced since the scheme started, with a huge take up of composters (around 14,000), and a big increase in the amount of glass collected for recycling & sale.


In the light of the consultation feedback the Liberal Democrat Group decided to bite the bullet and unanimously agreed to recommend the scrapping of the £35 charge for garden waste collection. It was considered that although many residents were prepared to pay something, a smaller charge may not cover the administration costs, so it was not considered worthwhile.


Whilst we still believe in the principles of the scheme – to encourage more people to compost and generally reduce the waste they produce, we did need to take the public with us to make the scheme successful, and this is what we failed to do.


To maintain the impetus of what has been achieved it was proposed that there is a limit on the number of bags collected ‘free’, but to account for seasonal variations in need and those with larger gardens, additional bags offered at £1 a collection.


If approved by the Executive the scheme will end on 31st October and those who purchased the green sacks will be refunded for the remaining seven months collection they had paid for.


The cost of providing the green waste collection service free for the remaining 9 months of the year is expected to be in the region of £400,000. However the group asked for the cost to be met out of existing resources to try to avoid an impact on future council tax rises. There will be some savings too as the Beddington Lane site will no longer be required.


No doubt there will be criticism that we did not consult before the scheme was introduced, and with hindsight it might have saved considerable distress. However, personally I believe that sometimes you have to run with a scheme to really test whether it will work or not. Who could have foreseen the handles coming off the green sacks? Would our generally environmentally friendly residents really flytip or was this just a threat? Often people express opposition to proposed changes but then when implemented they can find that it is not as bad or as difficult as they expected. That is what people used to say about recycling. However in the case of the garden waste collection more problems occurred than had been foreseen. One thing particularly that came out of the consultation is that we need to give more thought as to how our policies might impact on our elderly and disabled residents. Whilst home composting may not have proved a barrier for less mobile residents, what was perhaps not considered was the effect if they chose not to use this option and so faced the rigors of dragging sacks up steps at Kimpton Park.


The other unforeseen was the credit crunch. The added burden of the charge in the current climate of rising fuel bills and food prices was another persuasive reason for the group’s decision to scrap the charge.


I would like to take the opportunity to address one question which I realise I failed to answer in my previous posts. The question was how did the scheme save landfill costs if the green garden waste never previously went to landfill? The answer is that although it was not sent to landfill, because the garden waste was ‘collected’ it was still counted as part of our landfill quota. This means that as landfill charges are introduced the council will still be penalised for the amount of garden waste collected. As the plans to address this have not worked out perhaps we now need to be lobbying central government to end this unfair anomaly.


September 15, 2008 - Posted by | Information

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