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Green Bins: Interim Update

Green Bins Interim UpdateIn advance of Fylde Council's meeting to consider the Green Bin Issue this week, we're providing a quick update since their last decision in April - (which was to defer implementing a charge for collecting green waste).

Toward the bottom of this page, we have reproduced part of a report that Fylde considered at the end of May, followed by a bit more news about how things have been going more widely in Lancashire and in Blackpool.

Fylde's Operational Management Committee is discussing this matter again tomorrow (Tuesday) night and is being recommended to introduce a charge.

They will also consider a range of different service options.

 We expect to be there to hear the debate and will report that meeting shortly.

SYNOPSIS

We start with a quick look at the Pros and Cons of charging, and a bit of Background, before looking at what's happening in the rest of Lancashire.

We then widen out and look at what's happening nationally, and then at our closest neighbour Blackpool, before concluding with a taste of what Fylde needs to consider.

 GREEN BIN CHARGE: PROS AND CONS

We had expected Fylde to introduce either seasonal (or less frequent) green waste collections, or charging for collecting and emptying green bins - probably from next year.

To be fair to Fylde, with the funding reduction they are experiencing from LCC, we can see they have to do something to cover the shortfall, and we can also see quite finely balanced arguments (both for an against) whether there should be a separate charge paid only by those who use the service, or whether it should be a universal service funded by all.

For example, it is easy to argue that if you live in a terraced property with no garden, you should not have to contribute to the cost of removing other people's garden waste, (especially from people living in in more spacious property with a garden to enjoy).

But of course, on the converse, couples with no children have always had to contribute to the (much more significant) costs of educating children belonging to other families.

 A BIT OF BACKGROUND

Historically, Fylde did not collect garden waste at all.

It was first introduced when a requirement to recycle 50% of waste came into being - and doubling the waste collected (using 100% recyclable green waste) - in more or less equal measure to household waste - immediately gives you 'mission accomplished' with 50% of your waste being recycled.

And whilst LCC were prepared to give significant subsidies, Fylde was happy to accept them, and it started to offer the service. But now the money tap is being turned off, and a re-think is required.

When they last considered the prospect of charging (April 2016), we were also pleased to see that Fylde did the sensible thing and did not introduce it whilst they were also receiving the money from LCC.

Had that plan gone ahead, it would have been double taxation for the same service.

Furthermore, the delay has let them see how well or badly the scheme is taken up in those authorities that don't seem to mind ripping of their taxpayers with double taxation, and what the unforeseeable wrinkles of such a change might be.

So we were, and we suspect most of our readers will be, interested in the update report that councillors received in May, setting out a broad picture of what's happening about green bins across Lancashire.

 WHAT'S HAPPENING NEARBY

The officer report said:

  • "Blackburn decision to charge is currently with Members with a view to introducing a chargeable, seasonal collection from March 2017.
  • Blackpool introducing a chargeable service for the 6th June at 25 for the first bin and 20 per additional bin. The charge will rise to 30 in 2017 for the full financial year. Delivery of information leaflets commenced on the 3rd May with 712 subscriptions received within the first two weeks. Residents can sign up at their local library, sports centre, HWRC, Customer First, online or via a..... [The end of the paragraph is missing from the report at this point]
  • Burnley no plans to charge at this time
  • Chorley no plans to charge at this time
  • Fylde - subscription service for green waste to be considered as part of future budget proposals
  • Hyndburn no plans to charge
  • Lancaster introduction of charge from august 2016 of 30 per bin
  • Pendle Pendle are about to commence the 3rd year of the subscription based scheme with an increased charge of 30 per bin.
  • Prior to the scheme an estimated 16,000 properties participated in the free collection. In year 1, 7,626 households subscribed with payments for 8576 bins, income of 214,400, i.e. 12.5% paid for more than one bin. In year 2, 7,909 households subscribed with payments for 8,912 bins, income of 222,800, i.e. 12.7% paid for more than one bin.

    It is too early to indicate how the increased charge will affect participation as the cut of date to subscribe is the 17th June however 3000 payments have been received to date."

  • "Preston introduction of charge of 30 per bin from 1st July (25 for early payment). Delivery of information leaflet commenced on 9th May, with Facebook and press campaign. 600 people has signed up to the scheme in the first week.
  • Ribble Valley no plans to charge at this time
  • Rossendale no response received
  • South Ribble no plans to charge at this time
  • West Lancashire subscription scheme rejected in favour of seasonal collection service; may be reconsidered moving forward
  • Wyre subscription scheme commenced on 2nd May 2016 with a charge of 30 for the first bin and 25 for additional bins. Prior to rollout of the scheme. Wyre carryout an exercise which determined there are 27,000 green bins in regular use throughout across the borough. To date 18,867 properties have signed up to the scheme with an income of 556,000 and 1600 households have paid for an additional bin. On the first week of collections the crews stickered and rejected 800 green bins that had not opted into the scheme resulting in an additional 600 new requests. Requests are still coming in with 63% signing up online despite a designated phone line and a number of landlords have also paid for the bins."

 THE PICTURE NATIONALLY

Since May, a report has appeared on the internet from a company called 'Mantis' who do garden tillers and composting equipment.

Their headline story is that in 2016, whilst 53% of councils still provide the service free of charge, 42% of Councils now make a charge for collecting green waste. (The remainder don't offer a kerbside collection of green waste at all) 

Most notably, the rate of increase in the number of councils who do make a charge is also increasing.

Before 2000, only one council charged.

Five years later in 2005 18 councils implemented charges.

By 2010 it was 58 councils

And in 2015 it was 131 councils that made charges.

Mantis say 'In the 160 local authority districts that charge annually for garden waste collection, the average fee to have a 240-litre bin emptied is 41.22 per year. This usually involves fortnightly collections throughout the year, although some councils pause collections during the winter months.'

The highest charge they found was 96 pa in Harlow District Council.

The cheapest borough council was Charnwood Borough Council at just 17 pa

Mantis currently have an excellent webpage with easy to digest graphics setting out all their findings. Readers can follow this link to the Mantis website.

 WHAT'S HAPPENING IN BLACKPOOL

We also hear via the Gazette that Blackpool's early experiences show that about 7,000 households there have subscribed to the green waste collection service.

Blackpool had wanted 3,340 subscribers to meet their annual costs, so we suspect if twice that many households have subscribed as the Gazette reported, Blackpool will be well in pocket - we suspect income over the 3,340 households will all be cash in excess of cost. - So we will be looking to see whether they maintain the current 30 annual charge (it was actually reduced to 25 for the first part year) or whether they decrease it for 2017.

We've not looked at Blackpool's figures in detail, but the headline story is that if their 30 subscription continues at around that level for 2017, it will probably mean that garden waste subscribers are paying twice what Blackpool told the Gazette is actually necessary to cover the cost of collecting their waste, so they would be subsidising other council services.

 FYLDE DECIDES ON TUESDAY

The report to the Operational Management Committee tomorrow night has a lot of detail which we have yet to digest, but - at least superficially - it appears to be quite open about the costs - which is exactly as it should be.

We understand that services have to be paid for.

We accept that if the green waste collection service is to continue, someone has to meet that cost (if LCC will no longer do so), and a decision has to be made about how that charge will be made.

Whenever a change like this is implemented, there will be winners and losers and it is crucially important that accurate information is provided in as open and transparent a way as possible, so that everyone affected can see the properly thought out and equitable justifications for making the charge.

What we have yet to see, is whether the AIM of the charge that is eventually agreed will be cover the cost, or be subsidised from overall taxation, or whether it will generate a surplus that Fylde will use to offset spending elsewhere.

That's something we will want to keep an eye on as this scheme moves forward.

And just before we close, on the topic of bins we have a small digression. Fylde's financial monitoring for last year 2015/16 shows an overspend on their budget for buying bins. They'd estimated 40,000 to provide bins, but ended up spending 52,000 on them.

The rationale for this was that during the year they had to buy more replacement grey and green bins because the existing stocks have gone down, and there had been an increase in demand for a full set of bins for as new homes came on stream. The bins are now chargeable to those asking for them, so this looks to be more a cashflow problem than an overspend.

Dated:  12 September 2016

   

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