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Birmingham’s £35 garden waste removal fee is here to stay, Labour councillors told

Birmingham’s £35 garden waste removal fee is here to stay, Labour councillors told

🕔30.Apr 2014

Labour city council leaders have said there is no prospect of scrapping a £35 charge imposed on thousands of Birmingham families to remove garden waste.

Cabinet member James McKay and deputy council leader Ian Ward met angry backbenchers yesterday to answer claims that the unpopular charge could lose Labour seats at the local government elections on May 22.

But Ward and McKay said they would not bow down to pressure from Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors, who have dubbed the £35 annual fee a ‘garden tax’. The Conservatives have promised to get rid of the charge, although they could not do so as it is mathematically impossible for the party to take control of the council from Labour in May.

Council bin crews collected garden waste free of charge during the summer months until this year.

A charge was imposed as part of the change from plastic bag refuse collection to wheelie bins.

While household rubbish and recycled refuse is still removed free of charge, for the first time householders have to pay if they want the council to take garden waste – or make arrangements themselves to get rid of the material.

Labour said the service could no longer be offered for free because the council had to raise revenue to meet cuts in Government grant. But the service has hardly been a money-raiser. Only 20,000 households have decided to pay for their garden waste to be collected, about five per cent of the Birmingham population.

Tory and Lib Dem councillors blame the charge for an outbreak of fly-tipping across Birmingham.

They also claim a reluctance to pay for the service will send the council’s recycling figures plummeting.

A Labour councillor who was at the meeting with Cllr McKay and Cllr Ward said it became clear that the £35 charge would have to remain.

The councillor said: “A lot of people had their say and some were quite angry. But it seems that green waste is a bigger issue in some parts of the city than in others.

“There certainly doesn’t seem to have been consideration given as to how charging for a service that used to be free might play out across Birmingham.

“There was, though, general recognition that James McKay and Ian Ward had done the right thing in addressing Labour councillors and thrashing out the issue. It’s not very often that we are able to debate these important matters in such an open way.”

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