Mon, 20 Aug 2018
THE district is divided over West Berkshire Council’s controversial £50 green bin charge.
Almost 6,000 people have now signed an online petition urging the council to scrap the scheme.
But, as of Wednesday last week, around 10,000 had already subscribed to the service.
From Monday, September 3, residents will have to pay if they want to have their garden waste collected – a service which up until now has been provided free of charge.
The council said it had “little choice” but to introduce the controversial charge due to a massive reduction in government funding.
West Berkshire Liberal Democrat member and Newbury resident George Davis started the petition last week.
Mr Davis said he hoped the petition would gain enough signatures to roughly equal the number that had signed up, adding that “just because people have paid for the service, does not mean they agree with it”.
By the time the Newbury Weekly News went to press on Wednesday this week, more than 3,800 people had signed the petition.
The deputy leader of the opposition, Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) said the number reflected residents’ anger at being charged.
Mr Macro said: “I think well over 3,000 signatures in a short time does show how strongly people feel about this.
"As I’ve said before, the council should be doing more to encourage recycling and this is doing the exact opposite.”
The council sent out letters to residents across the district earlier this month, outlining the changes to the green waste collection service.
The communications manager at West Berkshire Council, Martin Dunscombe, confirmed that the cost of sending these letters will be covered by the £900,000 a year the scheme is expected to generate.
The £50 charge was originally due to be rolled out in July, but was subsequently put back – a delay which is expected to cost the council in the region of £150,000.
Mr Macro said he believed this would have repercussions in regards to reaching the expected annual target.
He said: “Since the council have been so late in getting it up and running, there will be a lot of people this year who will think, ‘the summer is nearly over, the growing season is over, I’ve managed without it this year, so I won’t need to opt in next year’.”
At a meeting on March 1, prior to the council approving its revenue budget for 2018/19, Mr Macro’s colleague, opposition leader, Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) tabled an amendment to reduce the charge, but not abolish it.
This was on the basis of halving the charge to £25 for the first year only – instead using the council’s transformational funds – before implementing a £50 annual charge in subsequent years.
But the amendment was not voted on, as Mr Dillon did not have a party member to second it at the meeting.
Mr Macro confirmed that should the Liberal Democrats unseat the Conservatives at the local elections next spring, his party would work towards abolishing the charge.
When asked what alternative measures his party would put in place, Mr Macro said he wanted to raise more income through the sale of ‘Pro-Grow’ – compost made from green garden material generated by West Berkshire homes by the council’s waste contractor, Veolia.
The Theale councillor said: “We believe the council is not anywhere near doing enough to spread the word you can buy compost.
“We would market this much better.”
To sign the petition, visit: https://www.change.org/p/west-berkshire-council-do-not-charge-residents-to-recycle-scrap-the-50-charge