WEST Berkshire Council has been asked whether it can justify proposals to start charging residents £50 to have their green waste bins collected.
In its revenue budget for 2018/19, the local authority announced the plans to introduce an annual subscription for the fortnightly collection of garden waste.
The proposed plan would raise £900,000 for the cash-strapped council as part of its wider effort to make £5.2m of savings next year.
But in a public consultation, in which 749 West Berkshire residents took part, nearly 85 per cent of responses (643) disagreed with the proposal.
Objections cited were that the proposed charge would not be affordable and that it would have a negative impact on poorer households and the elderly.
It was also suggested that the charge could result in greater amounts of waste being placed in black bins and concerns were raised about an expected increase in fly-tipping.
In a stage one equality impact assessment, the council argued those who are unable to pay for the service could make use of disposal services at the household waste recycling centres in Newbury and Padworth.
But respondents questioned if those with restricted mobility or limited transport could benefit from using waste management alternatives.
Charging for garden waste collections is allowed under the Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012.
But at a meeting of West Berkshire council’s executive on Monday, opposition leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) asked if it could be justified.
He said: “The legislation quoted stipulates what can be charged for, but there’s also a secondary piece of legislation which says that the fees have to be justifiable.
“In the consultation that went out to the public, I didn’t see any information in there which stipulated why it was £50 and not £49 or £48 or £30.
“Legislation requires you to be able to justify the need for the cost.
“Are you confident that you are able to justify why it’s set at the level of £50?”
In order to continue to receive fortnightly garden waste collections, West Berkshire residents would have to subscribe to the new scheme online.
But Mr Dillon urged the council to explore other ways of making residents pay for the proposed scheme, to which the council’s executive member for culture and environment, Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said it would be considered.
Mr Dillon claimed some older residents would not be comfortable buying into a recycling scheme if the only method to do so was through online payments.
Considering other options to pay, the Lib Dem councillor suggested, could “mitigate the harm” should the new collection charge come into effect on its scheduled date, July 1 2018.