‘This is what austerity is’: Council chief defends green charges

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A senior councillor has hit back at critics of the borough’s controversial new bins charge, saying the council can no longer afford to take away green waste for free.

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron said the decision to introduce annual charges for taking away green waste was essential to help the local authority cope with government budget cuts.

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron told the cabinet meeting: I don't like it but that is austerity

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron told the cabinet meeting: I don't like it but that is austerity

Cabinet chiefs voted to bring in the charge, which will stand at between £30 and £35 a year, on Wednesday night.

Charges will start on June 5 this year.

When the scheme was first announced it sparked outrage among homeowners.

However, Coun Gomez-Aspron said the current system of taking away green waste was costing the council £931,000 per year in operational costs.

We recently had to put council tax up, but even that doesn’t that doesn’t bring in enough money to cover Government cuts, and so services are lost. Like you, I don’t like that either, but that’s what austerity is

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron

That amount, he said, was unsustainable as the council seeks to make savings of £7.4m for the 2017/18 financial year.

Coun Gomez-Aspron, cabinet member for green, smart and sustainable borough, said: “Almost half of all councils in the UK now charge for green waste collection, which is not covered by council tax, and the majority of others are considering introducing a charge.

“We have provided this free service for as long as we can. It is one of the services specifically not covered by legislation. We have covered it under permissive powers, but as a direct result of austerity, like many other local authorities facing significant funding cuts, the council can no longer afford to provide this level of extra service.

“We recently had to put council tax up, but even that doesn’t that doesn’t bring in enough money to cover Government cuts, and so services are lost. Like you, I don’t like that either, but that’s what austerity is.

“The council is faced with identifying the least worst options. All of the options are poor, but have been forced on us by the reduction in national funding.

“The only options would be to start charging for green waste collections for the cost of the service, to scrap the service altogether, or to cut a further £931,000 from statutory services such as protecting vulnerable people and roads maintenance.

“This is what the Government’s austerity currently feels like. It is a sustained attack on local government finances.”

The scheme will see homeowners who pay the fee issued with a licence sticker which they attach to their green bin.

Households who choose not to subscribe to the scheme are advised to make their own alternative disposal arrangements, whether that is through any free Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC’s), or by home composting.

Brown general waste bins found to contain garden waste will not be emptied.

Council officers will monitor fly tipping incidents on a regular basis and if there is a rise in any areas, increased monitoring could take place to deal with the situation.

Councillor Gomez-Aspron added: “The introduction of this charge, which works out at £1.50 per collection if done online, does not excuse the criminal act of fly tipping. Our waste centres are free to access and garden waste can be taken there if required. If you have a van, free permits are available online from MerseyWaste.”

The Subscription period will run from 5 June 2017 until the end of May 2018 with a winter break during December, January and February when no collections will take place. Residents who sign up to the service will be required to renew their subscription annually.

Full details will be provided to residents within an information booklet which is to be delivered to households next month, with distribution starting on Monday 24 April.