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Lib Dems pledge free green bins service as council suspends ‘waste hierarchy’ study

Lib Dems pledge free green bins service as council suspends ‘waste hierarchy’ study

🕔29.Feb 2016

Birmingham Liberal Democrats say they would scrap a controversial £35 annual charge for collecting green garden waste if they were in control of the city council.

They are also promising to push through a smaller council tax rise than planned and increase spending by £30 million over the next four years.

The proposals are contained in amendments to be put to the annual council budget-fixing meeting tomorrow, March 1. In reality, with only 11 of the 120 councillors, there is not the slightest possibility of the Liberal Democrat spending plans being approved.

The budget of the controlling Labour group sets out spending cuts of £90 million, with 1,200 council jobs set to disappear. Labour has warned that £250 million will have to be cut from the budget by 2020 on top of about £550 million that has disappeared since 2010 to cope with cuts in Government grant and growing demand for adult social care.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Jon Hunt hit out at what he called Labour’s “defeatist” budget and claimed the council was failing to deliver basic services. He said restoring a free garden waste service, at a cost to the council of £2.5 million, would encourage recycling.

By promising to provide a free green waste service as well as cracking down on fly-tipping the Liberal Democrats have seized on a topic of widespread public concern.

Council meetings over the past few months have been dominated by complaints about missed bin collections and rubbish-strewn streets. Councillors from the three main political parties have organised residents’ clean-up campaigns and pictured the results on Facebook, with sacks of rubbish piled on street corners awaiting collection.

Last week the council suspended consultation into the future of Birmingham’s waste collection service following claims that a survey distributed to households was “indecipherable”.

Residents were asked to consider the benefits of a “spatial context” and a “circular economy” as well as the best approach to the “waste hierarchy”. Liberal Democrat group leader Jon Hunt said the council’s customers would need a PhD to understand the questions.

Jacqui Kennedy, acting strategic director at the council, confirmed the survey had been paused “in response to early helpful feedback”. The survey is no longer available via the council website.

Labour’s budget plans would keep the green waste collection charge at £35 a year for 2016-17, with an increase to £40 for 2017-18 and beyond.

Cllr Hunt will urge the council to “look beyond the age of austerity” and build up Birmingham’s communities when he delivers his budget speech.

The Liberal Democrats are proposing investment in three priorities, using cash from reserves to increase spending.

The priorities are:

  • To crack down on flytipping and antisocial behaviour;
  • To meet the city’s target of achieving a 50 per cent recycling rate by 2020 – rates are currently at about 30 per cent.
  • To build strong communities by taking advantage of the ward boundary reorganisation in 2018.

The party would levy a one per cent council tax rate, compared to 1.99 per cent proposed by Labour, but would support a one-off two per cent increase to fund social services.

Cllr Hunt said he would remove “petty” cuts planned by Labour including the closing of superloos, removal of the dog cruelty prevention service, security for school crossing patrols, cuts in street cleaning, and further cuts to the youth service.

Community libraries would be developed to become community hubs rather than being closed. Cllr Hunt said:

What we see is that the proposals tabled by the Labour administration are excessively cautious and frankly defeatist.

This may be a result of the change of leadership over the winter – so we hope they will recognise what we are saying.

While there are real signs of progress in terms of housing and economic development – through regional working, the council is failing in the basic services it is meant to provide residents and shows every sign of making things worse.

And the impact goes beyond litter streets and alleyways piled high with rubbish. It means the council will fail to achieve recycling targets and fail to make its contribution to tackling climate change.

The Liberal Democrat plans extend the business plan by one year to 2020-2021 – the point when council finances should stabilise. Cllr Hunt said the plan would show how the council can balance its budget in 2020 whilst delivering improvements and “avoiding petty cuts” over the next four years.

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