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Councillors to consider charge for garden waste collection service 

COUNCILLORS are to decide on a proposal to introduce a paid-for garden waste collection service at a special meeting of Rugby Borough Council to be held next week.

The new service is a set out in an officer's report that explains how it would help the council meet a £800,000 funding shortfall brought about by government changes to the way councils are funded.

The borough council is obliged to provide a waste and recycling service for no charge at the point of use, but does not have to provide a garden waste collection service.

The report points out that, while all households benefit from a rubbish and recycling service, it is predominantly properties with large gardens that benefit from the green bin service. Flats and properties with small gardens often don't have a green bin service at all.

Around the country, about 42 per cent of councils already charge for garden waste collection, including neighbouring authorities Harborough District and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council. Daventry District Council intends to introduce a chargeable service next year.

If adopted, the proposal will see residents able to opt-in to the £40 per bin per year service, which would start from 3 April 2017. Residents will be able to sign up for the service online or by telephone from the beginning of March. Bins would continue to be emptied fortnightly.

Residents who choose not to opt-in for the service will be able to take garden waste to recycling centres or compost it at home. As now, black bins containing garden waste will not be emptied, allowing the county council to continue disposing of black bin waste at the incinerator in Coventry.

Other options set out in the report but not recommended for approval at this stage include moving to three-weekly rubbish and recycling collections, establishing a joint waste collection and a joint waste disposal authority with neighbouring councils, creating a separate food waste collection service, and stopping the green bin collection service altogether.

All of the options are aimed at reducing the net cost of the waste collection service by £800,000 by 2018, in line with reduced income for the council from other sources.

Cllr Michael Stokes, Leader of Rugby Borough Council, said:

"With grant payments from the government set to be withdrawn over the next few years it is imperative that we find other ways to fund our services, or reduce our services to match the funding available.

"Feedback from residents shows that they value the green bin service.

"The last thing we want to do is ask residents to pay more, but like many local authorities, Rugby is now having to look carefully at how we fund these important services and we already operate a very efficient council, which has led us to have to consider these difficult decisions as a last resort."

Cllr Carolyn Robbins, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for resources, said: "The current green bin collection service provides no income to the council, while adding a significant cost.

"When the service was started in 2009 we were able to cover the costs with income received for recyclable materials, but raw materials markets have changed and this is no longer possible.

"While the county council has agreed to explore the possibility of sharing the savings they achieve through the green bin material we collect, there are no firm proposals and this is unlikely to reduce the net cost of the service to the point where we can set a balanced budget."

A report outlining the options describes the comprehensive work of the council's cross-party waste management services working party. The working party already has secured a partnership grant of £25,000 to help make the waste collection service more efficient, and also negotiated inclusion for Rugby residents in the Warwickshire Waste Partnership's "Slim your bin" campaign, aimed at reducing the amount of waste that households produce. 

The working party also found that data from other councils shows that there is no correlation between the frequency of fly tipped garden waste and garden waste collection charges, and that garden waste taken to recycling centres is cheaper for the county council to dispose of than garden waste collected from the kerbside.

Cllr Lisa Parker, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for the environment and public realm, said: "I would like to thank the members of the cross party waste management services working party, who have worked hard to put together a detailed set of options for councillors to consider.

"The working party posed some challenging questions and proved themselves to be knowledgeable on all of the relevant issues. 

"Councillors must now evaluate the findings of the working party and make an informed decision on the future of the waste service."

A survey of residents showed that 45 per cent of respondents would use a chargeable garden waste collection service, with most who provided feedback indicating that they would be prepared to pay £45 per year for a service covering at least ten months of the year. Nearly 3,000 residents responded.

Comments received covered a variety of subjects, from the principle of introducing a separate charge for the service through to concern about fly tipping and asking about the detailed scheme design.

The proposal will be considered by a special meeting of the council to be held on 7 February 2017.

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