Fortnightly general waste collections could be binned in favour of a three-weekly service as Central Beds Council looks at more ways to make savings.
And the introduction of a £40 annual charge for taking away garden refuse is also a distinct possibility, it appears, as the proposal is included in an officers’ report being debated by the council’s Executive today (Tuesday).
Currently only 17 out of 369 district and unitary authorities responsible for waste collection have moved to a three-weekly operation for general rubbish. But the change would save the council an estimated annual saving on £1.785m.
Rather more councils (30%) now charge for garden waste collections, and this could potentially bring in around £2.514m annually for CBC.
The move, which is sure to provoke a strong reaction from residents, would not take place until a consultation is held across the district, and further council debate on the findings.
The current waste collection and street cleansing contracts with Biffa, which were agreed 14 years ago, end on March 31, 2019, and the council sees it as the perfect opportunity to reassess the service provided.
CBC believe general waste could decrease by 20% with a three-weekly collection as residents are encouraged to recycle more, with recycling rates predicted to reach 57%. They point out that there is no legislation that requires local authorities to collect waste at a specific frequency.
But the report admits there could be issues: “Many residents already struggle to contain two weeks of residual waste in a standard issue 240L bin or a larger 360L bin - for larger families or those with nappies/clinical waste.
“Although food waste would be collected weekly from all households some residents will not use this potentially causing odour and pest issues in their residual bins.”
With the proposal to charge for garden waste, CBC has used a £40 charge [which includes a £5 per household admin fee] for its workings on how much money could be generated. They say comparable councils charge between £20 and £57.
All people signing up to the potential scheme in the north of the district would receive a wheeled bin for garden waste, which has been frequent request from residents. CBC says replacement bags, a frequent request with the current system, would no longer be required.
It points out that residents could subscribe to having multiple green bins to allow for those with larger gardens, and adds: “Where residents already have a free service, participation rates are usually high when transitioning to a chargeable service.”
But the report also warns of potential resistance. “Residents will be charged for something that is currently provided for free. The roll out of the scheme is operationally challenging, involving the removal of bins where residents have not joined the scheme and some way for collection crews to identify which bins have been paid for.
“Additional resource will be required to roll out and administer the scheme. Savings are based on several assumptions over where residents of CBC might dispose of their green waste if they don’t join the scheme and the likely participation rate.”
But they point out that the collection of garden waste is non-statutory, and under the Controlled Waste Regulations 2012, local authorities are permitted to charge for collection of garden waste, and about a third of local authorities currently do so.
The council’s consultation will also focus on additional boxes and caddies for further recycling across the whole district of glass and food waste.
National demand for new waste vehicles mean it can take 10 months between an order and delivery. This would mean the council would need to award a contract in May 2018 to allow time for vehicles to arrive in time for a contract start in April 2019. With the need to consult and debate the proposals in full, CBC says that deadline is not deliverable so is proposing extending the existing Biffa contract by six months to give more breathing space.
On the Biffa contracts, the CBC report says: “Although the services have been adapted over time the end of these contracts presents an opportunity to fully review the design of the services and set the way they are delivered in to the future.
“Depending on the length of time for any new contract, this opportunity will not come around again for a period of at least 7 years. To ensure we are delivering the most efficient, cost effective, customer focussed, environmentally sound and legally compliant services a complete assessment of the options available and the impacts is required.”
Independent CBC Councillor Roy Johnstone said he was strongly against to any move to three-weekly general waste collections or a charge for garden waste.
He said: “I am very opposed to three weekly collections. Most people have bins that are pretty full after a week. I often see bins with lids not completely down because there is too much in them. That speak volumes.
“It is a cost cutting exercise purely and simply. People may end up taking their waste to the Tidy Tip. That’s going to make it busier up there and sometimes it’s bad enough getting in there anyway.”
Cllr Johnstone said he saw no need for a glass collection service with numerous glass banks in the area, and said the charge for garden waste was “nonsensical”.
He said: “Most people cut their lawns and I don’t think people will be prepared to pay £40/year for the privilege of having garden waste collected. I don’t think it’s on.
“I know the council is cash strapped, but we are already facing a heavy increase in council tax and a lot of people can’t afford it. They are feeling a little bit pinched and I don’t think this [garden waste charge] will meet with their approval.”