U.S. Markets closed

Councils charging nearly £100 to take away gardening waste in fees branded 'immoral'

Sarah Knapton
One third of councils collect green waste for free, while Harlow charges £96 a year  - Christopher Jones

Gardeners are being charged nearly £100 to have their clippings and hedge trimmings taken away by councils while others receive the service for free, figures show.

Calculations carried out by this newspaper show that the costs are so high at some local authorities that it is the equivalent of adding nearly eight per cent to an annual council tax bill.

Councils are not supposed to raise their annual bills by more than 5.99 per cent annually without a referendum. 

But residents claim that charging for services which were previously included in council tax costs is an ‘immoral’ way to increase bills without requiring public approval.

Harlow District Council in Essex charges £96 a year to collect garden waste, the equivalent of 7.94 per cent increase for a Band A property.

Arun District Council charges £88.22 - a 7.52 per cent increase - while the London Borough of Lewisham charges £80, the equivalent of paying an extra 6.28 per cent.

Andrew Smith, who lives in Addington, Kent, said plans by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council in Kent to introduce £40 bin charge this September pushed his annual council tax rise up to 6.65 per cent.

“Whilst technically not illegal it is certainly highly immoral,” he said.

The council has defended the scheme saying it will help fund improvements to kerbside recycling services. 

The Telegraph recently launched a Zero Waste campaign calling for recycling and waste disposal to made simpler and more consistent across the country. 

Out of 326 English councils which pick up rubbish and recycling from homes, 212 (65 per cent) now charge for a garden waste collection service. But costs vary widely with Richmondshire in North Yorkshire, charging just £22 a year.

In contrast Worthing charges nearly four times that amount (£80), while Brent, Gosport, Lambeth, Hastings, Haringey, East Hampshire and Lewes all have fees of £60 or above. 

City workers collect domestic garden waste for composting from outside houses in Newport South Wales Credit: Jeff Morgan/Alamy

Some 17 councils have introduced charges in the last 18 months, but critics claim the charges will lead to an increase in fly-tipping because people will be unwilling to pay for a service that until recently was provided free of charge.

John Read of the campaign group Cleanup Britain said: “Inevitably, if Councils start charging for garden waste then it's likely to prompt some people to fly-tip.

“However, there is no excuse for fly-tipping.  There is a cost for everything and people need to realise that most Councils are semi-bankrupt. The current local government funding model is unsustainable.” 

The Department for the Environment (Defra) has previously promised that garden waste collections will be free from 2023, and says councils will be properly funded to deliver the services. 

Coun Martin Tett, Environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Some councils were able to provide free garden waste collection services when they were first introduced but are now having to charge due to the huge financial pressures they are under. Money raised from charges goes back into services.

“Councils should be free to decide how to deliver their waste services locally, as various factors determine waste collection methods, such as property type and rurality.”

However the Royal Horticultural Society  (RHS) said homeowners should consider compositing if they want to avoid the charges. 

Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist at the RHS, said: “Compost is the best of all soil improvers and is free and easy to prepare.

“If you don’t think you have enough to make it worth your while consider adding to the mix scrunched up newspaper, torn up cardboard or kitchen waste such as peelings and dinner leftovers. 

“Garden compost is seldom the crumbly dark brown of commercial compost, but it does not matter if it is a bit twiggy, the compost is still an excellent boost for soils.”