Plan to charge £52 for Tunbridge Wells garden waste collection

What the garden looked like before

HOUSEHOLDS in Tunbridge Wells could be charged £52 a year for a new opt-in garden waste collection from 2019, under a borough council [TWBC] plan.

The Conservative-run authority has been accused of considering a ‘stealth tax’ by entering into a waste partnership with Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.

This agreement, to last a minimum of eight years, would see glass bottles and jars collected for recycling and a separate free weekly collection of food waste. It would be enforced from March 30.

Critics have welcomed both these proposals, but are unhappy with the £52 fee [which could include the cost of a new brown bin] – especially as it is a 70 per cent rise from the £30 fee suggested last year. The council has predicted 30 per cent of households [around 14,700] will take part.

Bi-weekly collection of garden waste is currently free. The plan would deliver net cost reductions for TWBC of £700,000 a year by 2022/23.

Liberal Democrat Cllr David Neve suggested the move could lead to a rise in fly-tipping. He said: ‘Here we go again. We will be paying more for less. Are people going to pay to have garden waste taken away, or will they throw it away themselves over a hedge?’

His Lib Dem colleague Cllr Ben Chapelard, the council’s Shadow Leader, said: ‘Following our campaign for doorstop glass recycling, we welcome news that residents will be able to recycle glass. But this is a brown bin tax that penalises residents who want to recycle.’

Hugo Pound, Chair of Tunbridge Wells Labour Party, said: ‘This looks like another stealth tax by the council.

‘We are delighted that kerb-side glass collections are included in this proposal. But this new opt-in charge is likely to lead to illegal dumping and garden bonfires.’

A Town Hall spokesperson said ‘financial efficiencies’ need to be made because of funding cuts by central government. The reported £30 was the amount charged by other councils but TWBC had not previously confirmed how much it would be.

Tory Cllr Ronen Basu said: ‘Charging for garden waste brings us in line with other councils in Kent and allows us to enhance our kerbside collections.

‘The change will also be welcomed by those residents who do not have garden waste.’

The council said garden waste should not be mixed with general rubbish but details have not yet been revealed as to how the council will regulate this.

The average charge in Kent is £43.50, with only Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Tonbridge & Malling not charging.

The proposal will be debated by the Communities Cabinet Advisory Board tonight [Wednesday, August 22] and could be passed by the Cabinet on August 30. The authority is also looking to assign a bidder for the contract.

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