South Northamptonshire council tax payers will be asked to pay £42-a-year to continue having their garden waste collected if plans to ‘harmonise’ services get the green light next week.
Cabinet members are being asked to approve an opt-in subscription service from April 2022 — dubbed a 'brown bin tax' by critics who believe it puts people off recycling — for all the West Northamptonshire Council area.
That will 'level up' charges across the three former borough and district areas which were swallowed up by the new unitary authority earlier this year and means residents in the south might be asked to pay for the first time.
Northampton and Daventry residents already need to sign up to have garden waste collected, but the service remained free for everybody in South Northants, a legacy of arrangements under the old district council.
A report, to be discussed on Tuesday (November 9), reveals West Northamptonshire received 'negative feedback and several complaints about the disparity of charging' since the new authority took over waste collections from three former districts and boroughs in April.
It also revealed some complaints have been considered by the Local Government Ombudsman, which cleared the council because it had already pledged an early review.
And it warned: “Harmonising the garden waste collection service across the whole of West Northamptonshire in line with the Council’s mandate to ensure parity for its residents.
“Maintaining a different charging position in each geographical location will not be a legally defensible position if allowed to continue."
Cllr Phil Larratt, WNC’s Portfolio Holder for Climate, Transport, Highways and Waste, said: “It’s important that all our residents, wherever they live, have equal and fair choices on the services we provide.
"There is currently great disparity in the way we’re delivering garden waste collections across the area, which is why we’re reviewing the arrangements we took on from the old councils.
“Some residents really value having garden waste collections, but we also know that others don’t need or use them. So the proposal to make it an opt-in chargeable service for everyone aims to ensure that only those residents who want them end up paying for them.
"Chargeable garden waste collections have already been running successfully in the Daventry and Northampton areas for a varying number of years now and residents are very familiar with how the service works — although I appreciate that extending these to cover the whole of West Northants would mean significant changes for households in the south of our area."
Local authorities are encouraged to collect garden waste for composting as part of ‘green’ recycling campaigns.
Traditionally, these collections were free. But the number of councils asking residents to pay has steadily increased in more recent years in response to budgetary pressures.
Figures quoted in the report show 65 percent of all councils in England now charge with an average cost of £43 a year.
The former Northampton Borough Council introduced its £42-a-year optional subscription fee in April 2020. That would remain unchanged for a third year under the new plans.
Daventry residents could sign up for £37-a-year fortnightly collections until June 2021 when the new West Northants Council changed it to £35 but covering only ten months — the equivalent of £42-a-year — to bring it into line with Northampton.
Just over half of Northampton’s eligible residents signed up in 2020 while 62 percent are subscribed in Daventry, according to figures in the report — which also estimates extending charging to South Northamptonshire will add £800,000 to the £2.2 million the council already gets from existing schemes.