Tonbridge council to charge £40 a year for new ‘garden tax’ recycle service
TONBRIDGE & Malling Borough Council is to charge residents £40 or more a year to take away their garden waste in a move which has been condemned as a ‘garden tax’.
The decision comes as the town halls of Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells negotiate a new Waste Services Contract. The existing one expires next February.
A charge has not been imposed before, and the council anticipates the ‘opt-in’ service will save £750,000 a year – or £850,000 if the fee is stepped up to £45.
As part of the South West Kent Joint Waste project it will save Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC], its Tunbridge Wells counterpart and Kent County Council [KCC] around £2.5million a year in total. Dartford Borough Council was also involved in the scheme but pulled out earlier this year.
The idea was put forward in Tunbridge Wells last November, though the charge then was thought to be £30 a year.
That figure has now risen to £52, casting doubt over the sum the Tonbridge authority will impose.
That will be decided once the contractor’s bids have been examined.
The winner of the eight-year deal was scheduled to be announced on August 10.
TMBC’s Cabinet will meet to discuss the issue on September 4.
The contract will allow households to recycle their plastic and glass on the doorstep for the first time.
The authorities reckon that recycling performance could increase to over 50 per cent. The rate stood at 46.30 per cent for the period from 2005-06 to 2016-17.
The plan was drawn up with KCC’s Kent Resource Partnership, who dispose of discarded household materials once the district councils have collected them.
Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells forged a joint contract in order to ‘improve services and efficiency, increase recycling rates and generate financial savings’.
The plans include a weekly food waste collection, with a new caddy provided, so that this can be kept separate and converted into fertiliser.
There will be an alternating fortnightly services for plastics, metals, cartons and glass, with a separate container for paper and card; and black bin refuse will also be picked up every two weeks.
Most controversially, residents can ‘opt in’ for the garden waste option twice monthly ‘for a reasonable annual charge if they wish to do so’.
The council adds: ‘This charge would help fund the proposed improvements to kerbside recycling services.’ A new brown wheeled bin would be provided.
TMBC has based its savings calculations from garden waste on an anticipated uptake of between 30 and 40 per cent by residents.
Robert Styles, Director of Street Scene, Leisure and Technical Services, said: ‘Whereas a pull-out service may be the only option for certain residents to ensure they receive a refuse collection service, there are alternative methods of disposing of garden waste, such as home composting and using the Household Waste Recycling Centres.’
He added: ‘It is also worthy of note that the level of the new ‘opt-in’ garden waste charge will not be considered by [council] members until the tender submissions have been received and evaluated.’
Based on the latter figure the council would generate revenue of £762,440.
The change would entail a cost of £25,000 for the provision of brown bins.
But it would also lead to a saving of £73,000 at recycling sites, bringing a net saving of £759,262 – or £854,567 if the charge is increased to £45.
The move has been attacked the Tonbridge & Malling Green Party, who labelled it a ‘stealth tax’.
Mark Hood, the party’s Vice-Chair, said: ‘If you have a garden too small for a compost bin and cannot get to the tip you will have no choice but to pay for a new bin specifically for garden waste.
‘The garden tax is completely unnecessary. It is purely a money-making exercise. Because of a combination of central government cuts and an abject failure to adapt, TMBC is incapable of balancing its budget so it needs to find extra revenue.’
The new charge comes against a backdrop of a 4.99 per cent increase in council tax, which will cost £59 per annum for average Band D homes.
The contract starts in Tonbridge on March 1 2019, and on March 30 in Tunbridge Wells.
Sevenoaks, Maidstone and Ashford authorities already charge for a garden waste service, but not Wealden and Medway councils.