WEST Berkshire Green Party dumped bins filled with garden waste outside the district council’s Market Street offices last week in protest against its proposal to start charging residents £50 a year to collect them.
A group of around 15 people stood outside in freezing conditions before the budget meeting in a last-ditch bid to persuade the council to scrap the plans.
However, their efforts proved in vain as the Conservative-controlled council voted them through, despite 700 people responding to a public consultation, saying they would not be prepared to pay for the service.
The annual subscription of £50 for the fortnightly collection of garden waste is optional, so residents can choose not to pay and not have it collected.
The changes will come into effect from July and are set to raise £900,000 for the cash-strapped council.
The proposal is part of its wider plan to save £10m next year.
Green Party members handed out leaflets outlining 10 reasons for opposing the £50 fee. Among them were claims that the council was discouraging residents from recycling.
There was also an argument that the collection for garden waste was already paid for in council tax bills.
The party also claimed the council’s estimate that it would raise £900,000 was “wildly optimistic” – a view shared by opposition Lib Dem leader Lee Dillon (Thatcham North).
Protesters also argued the scheme was an impractical one, which would be subject to abuse and lead to a rise in fly-tipping and the theft of bin stickers, which indicate whether people have paid.
In the full council meeting that followed the protest, Mr Dillon ridiculed the council’s £900,000 projection, describing it as “extremely challenging and unrealistic”.
He also warned there was already talk of residents dumping their green bins outside the council’s offices on July 1.
However, the council’s executive member for culture and environment Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said the plan would mimic the success of similar schemes which have already in place by other local authorities.
Mr Boeck added that the £900,000 was a net income figure after the deduction of associated costs.
And, despite admitting that recycle rates would initially fall, he remained confident the scheme would provide long-term benefits.
Mr Boeck said: “This is going to be driven by decisions residents make.
“While we do expect there to be a decrease in recycling with charges to garden waste services, this will then start to increase again.
“Whatever happens, there will be a change in the amount of recycling we are sending to landfill.
“What we’ll seek to do, to reverse any change, is to continue to improve our programme of education and encouragement.”