Garden waste charges in affluent areas are ‘an inconvenience’ for residents rather than a financial concern, the waste commissioning lead for Buckinghamshire county council has suggested.
Speaking to delegates at the LARAC conference in Nottingham yesterday, Kofi Adu-Gyamfi also advised councils could gradually raise garden waste subscription fees until residents threatened to pull out of the scheme.
More than a third of all English councils currently charge for green waste collections, with annual fees ranging from around £20 in Gateshead to £95 in Harlow.
The schemes, which are becoming more widespread as cash-strapped authorities look for new ways to deliver services, were branded ‘cash cows’ by DCLG in 2013 and were the subject of an unsuccessful legal challenge by a Birmingham MP in 2014.
Commenting on his own county, Mr Adu-Gyamfi said that Wycombe district council is currently the only authority in Buckinghamshire not to charge a fee for garden waste collections. Elsewhere, roll outs had been successful due to “engagement with householders” and service value ranging between £35-45 per annum.
He added that while just two of the top 10 performing councils for recycling in England charge for green waste collections, others are now considering the move including Three Rivers, which is expected to achieve a 63% rate in 2014/15 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Asked what factors should be considered when adopting a garden waste charge, Mr Adu-Gyamfi said: “If you have more environmentally aware citizenry then they tend to understand the chargeable system better.”
He added: “If you look at manor houses £70 may just be an inconvenience to them. However if you come to an area where people are under financial pressure and you want to move it from £30-35 then you may be up for a real fight.”
Mr Adu-Gyamfi also suggested testing the boundaries of what householders considered acceptable for a charge from year to year. “If the vast majority are up in arms and they threaten to pull out of the scheme then you know you have hit your ceiling”, he said.
He concluded that the debate over garden waste charges was one of “localism versus standardisation” and warned that as town planning begins to incorporate more efficient collection systems, such as underground transfer, green waste charges could become redundant.
He also claimed fees could be dropped in the future to incentivise an increase in composting if national targets are devolved to local authorities. However, delegates were sceptical of the suggestion.