Will North Herts residents be ripped off by brown bin charge?

North Herts Bins.

North Herts Bins. - Credit: Archant

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that North Herts District Council could make a profit from the £40 brown bin charge – should the number of residents using the service and the cost of collection stay the same.

It was been revealed that the council currently spends £1,212,000 each year to empty 50,404 brown bins across the district – approximately £24.05 per bin – giving the authority a 66 per cent profit margin.

This comes following NHDC’s decision to begin a £40 annual charge for the discretionary service to offset budget cuts, despite 85 per cent of consultation respondents disagreeing with the implementation of a charge.

Councillor Steve Jarvis, the leader of North Herts Liberal Democrats, said: “It is now clear that the district council plans to make a profit from the brown bin tax rather than just covering the costs of the service, as they have alleged.

“Of course this is based on the current cost of emptying the bins. We know that East Herts Council, who the new bin contract is shared with, pay much less for this service.

“If the new contract just matches the current East Herts costs, the real cost of emptying the brown bins could be less than £19.

“So, not only are the council ignoring the views of local people who are opposed to this charge, they are planning to rip us off as well.”

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In response, Councillor Michael Weeks – NHDC’s lead for waste and recycling – said: “In our recent consultation, 26 per cent of respondents said they would be likely to use the chargeable garden waste service and our current forecasts are therefore based on this assumption.

“If 26 per cent of people do take up the service, the level of income generated – at around £524,000 – is significantly less than the current cost of the current organic waste service, at £1.2m.”

The decision to charge £40 for garden waste collection was called-in by the council’s scrutiny committee last Thursday evening to consider whether NHDC’s cabinet – which approved the decision last month – had fully considered the issue.

At the meeting members from the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups argued that there were certain factors the cabinet were not aware of when casting their votes, such as the public response since the decision was made.

They also looked at the decline in recycling when Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council introduced the policy, and East Herts Council’s decision – which, unlike North Herts’, was made in full council – not to charge for the collection of garden waste.

When some councillors proposed taking the decision to full council for debate, 10 committee members voted against it, while five voted for it. The outcome was the same when it was then proposed that it be taken back to cabinet for a second time.

Labour councillor Judi Billing, who represents Hitchin Bearton ward, said after the meeting councillors had been “shut out” of any democratic process because the Conservatives had voted not to take the issue to a full council vote.