Bonus £3.8m budget surplus 'blows excuses for garden bin charge out of the water,' says West Northamptonshire councillor
Scrutiny committee tells Cabinet to think again over £42-a-year opt-in subscriptions for whole authority
An independent councillor is leading calls for garden waste collection charges to be scrapped across all of West Northamptonshire.
Ian McCord says cash from an unexpected £3.8 million surplus on next year's budget could be used to cover any shortfall in revenue — 'and still have change.'
The Tory-controlled council’s scrutiny committee has already told cabinet members to think again over 'harmonising' a £42-a-year opt-in subscription for residents who want garden waste collected.
Cllr McCord added that a new charge could only be justified for south Northamptonshire residents if a new service was being provided.
He said: “I accept the principle of equalising the charge but you can equalise at anything, even zero.
“The authority has to make a decision: Are we going to levy this charge simply because we can and we want to because there is no longer a financial reason?
“All the excuses given so far have been blown away by the simple admission they've got £3.8million more than they were expecting.”
Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Malcolm Longley, presented draft budget proposals for 2022-23, which included £800,000 extra revenue from garden waste collections.
But the added figures had assumed the council would receive £300,000 less in government funding than it will actually get — and did not include another £3.5million grant which 'arrived out of the blue' after plans were put together.
A council spokesman said: “Cabinet could choose to use some of the additional grant to reduce the cost of garden waste charges.
“But this would mean the money would not be in reserve to cover some potential big unknowns such as the ongoing impact of Covid-19, for which no specific 2022-23 funding has yet been confirmed, or to invest in services where funding has previously been reduced.”
Plans to ‘harmonise’ garden waste collections in the former south Northamptonshire district with those in Northampton and Daventry from April 2022 were nodded through by the council's Cabinet last month.
Cllr McCord’s Deanshanger ward is in the area where garden waste collection charges have remained part of the council tax arrangements.
Residents there would face paying an £42-a-year on top of their existing council tax — the same as in Northampton and Daventry, where residents must sign up for collections under schemes inherited by West Northamptonshire Council.
Councillors asked the council's scrutiny committee — which also has a Conservative majority — to look into the decision and it will go back before Cabinet on January 18 to examine options, including reducing the subscription fee to £30.
Critics of what is dubbed a 'brown bin tax' say it puts people off recycling, although 63 percent of local authorities now charge for garden waste collections which they claim addresses issues of unfairness of people who do not have gardens paying towards a service as part of their council tax.
Eight councillors who 'called in' the decision over garden waste collections, including Labour, Lib Dem and other independent members, say cutting the charge will encourage more residents to sign up.