Sue Lissimore on the Council's short-sighted proposal to charge for kerbside collection of garden waste

Cllr Sue Lissimore (Prettygate Ward) and Conservative spokesperson on Waste, Neighbourhood Services & Environment addressed the Council's Cabinet, saying:

I believe the introduction of charges for the kerbside collection of garden waste is short sighted due to the potential obligations Environment Act which the Government is currently implementing.  This Act stipulates that the Government are looking at introducing a statutory duty to collect garden waste and a consultation response is due any day.

So why try to implement charges for collecting Garden Waste, with all the costs involved, when it could be overturned in the very near future?

The Council suggests "home composting".  There is an art to this and there is a great difference between producing compost and producing a smelly sludge - if someone regularly just adds lawn clippings for example then this will not produce a compost.  Residents also need the room to do this.  You’ve added links to Essex County Council help pages but this will only show what you need to do to produce usable compost.  If you don’t have the materials to do that, compost is not going to magically appear.

The Council also recommends taking garden waste to the Essex County Council recycling centre.  That seems to be the standard answer to most issues here at Colchester City Council.  Let’s transfer the burden onto Essex County Council instead of ourselves.  Job done.  Well I’m sorry but that’s not job done.  We still have to pay for this service through our taxes and yet you are happy to just transfer that burden to ECC.  This also does not take into account the extra vehicle journeys - I though we were trying to reduce journeys?  This does not correlate with the greenest council that you say you are trying to promote.

There are still many residents who do not want, or who can not handle wheelie bins.  The Council is proposing to force a wheelie bin for garden waste upon residents when the Council has said many times in the past that you will not.  Where do residents store them?  How do residents handle them if elderly or disabled?  The Council should have continued offering an either/or scheme and kept the option of using the existing white sacks.  I know why - because the kerb-side collection operatives prefer wheelie bins.  But that is just turning the maintenance and carrying of the receptacle onto the resident.  They will now be cleaning them and moving them!

My genuine concern about this whole proposal for charging to collect garden waste is the issue of it being cost-effective.  There are so many ‘what ifs’ and whilst I like to see flexibility when it comes to residents, flexibility is not the friend of balancing accounts.  The Council says it need to so this to pay for the service and to generate income yet you have no idea what the take up will be.  This is reinforced by some comments in the report: there ‘may be’ offers but we don’t know when or how much;  

  • the vehicle fleet will change ‘subject to speed of uptake and geography of growth; 
  • The Council will have to hire vehicles in the growing season but not sure how many;
  • the vehicles may not be of low admissions; There is the uncosted possibility promising by introducing Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil fuel to ensure the service has less emissions but this fuels costs more than diesel and as you have no idea how much money you will generate from charging for garden waste, that looks highly unlikely to go ahead.
  • states that no profit will be made until 2025/26 - what happens if the Government then turn around and say you’ve got to offer it free anyway?  All that done in 23/24 and 24/25 would be a loss and would never catch up and be paid back. 
  • The Council will be borrowing to achieve the balance you need.  So this council will be paying for this borrowing for many years to come.

I can not find any reference in the Council Report to those properties that do not have space for wheelie bins or who live in terraced housing and can not get a bin easily from the front to the back and vice versa.  Does that mean there is now no alternative for those households?  Wheelie bin or nothing?

I know what what the Council's answer is going to be - if we don’t do this then where else can we save money.  I understand that.  The majority of residents understand that.  However what you have here is a ‘finger in the air’ report that can not identify any surety that this will be cost effective, will have to borrow to deliver it and which may be scrapped anyway in the future due to implementation of the the Environment bill. 

In Conclusion, we are forgetting why kerbside garden waste collections were introduced in the first place?  To reduce the amount of garden waste going into black bags and therefore not being recycled.  Many residents will now just put their waste in the black bags and no where in this report can I see any budgeting for the increase in volume of black bags and the additional cost to clear up the fly tipping and bonfires.  However at the Council's Scrutiny Committee last night.  The Council is upping its estimate of average household waste going to land by an extra 640 tons.  The Council is also reducing its target on recycling from 55% to 53% as discussed last night.  How disappointing that when some Councils in Essex recycle 70% of their waste, Colchester is now set to drop to 53%, 

Conservatives believe that charging for the kerbside collection of garden waste is short sighted, too expensive and does nothing for this Council's green credentials.