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Sir Albert’s green waste charges set for last ditch protest

Sir Albert’s green waste charges set for last ditch protest

🕔19.Feb 2013

wasteSir Albert Bore is facing an 11th hour challenge over his plan to impose a £35 annual charge on households using Birmingham city council’s garden and green waste refuse collection service.

The council leader will have to deal with hostile elements of the 78-strong Labour group on the eve of next Tuesday’s annual budget-fixing meeting, where £102 million of spending cuts for 2013-14 are expected to be approved.

Angry councillors are ready to accuse Sir Albert of misleading a Labour group meeting over imposition of the charges for disposing of green rubbish, which are set to raise £2.5 million a year.

It’s claimed that a vote on the garden waste issue was avoided at the end of the five-hour meeting on the grounds that the savings would be a year away and feature in the 2014-15 budget.

Some Labour members assumed that the proposed £35 charge would come back for approval in a year’s time when the 2014-15 budget is discussed and approved by the group.

The mood of councillors opposed to Sir Albert’s style of leadership was not improved when the council leader told a press conference a few days after the group meeting that green waste charges would come into force next February, raising £400,000 in the 2013-14 financial year.

One councillor who was at the group meeting said: “We never agreed to charges for 2013-14. The group was told by Sir Albert that garden waste collections would be a matter for next year’s budget and that it was not therefore necessary to discuss or vote on the matter at the moment.

“So it was quite a shock for many members when the television news led on the imposition of green waste charges a few hours after Sir Albert briefed the media.”

The claim of being misled was strongly denied by deputy council leader Ian Ward.

Cllr Ward said: “This is not at all my recollection of what happened at the group meeting.

“Members wanted more detail about proposed savings so that was provided and it turned out that plans to cut the free bulky waste collection service were controversial and dominated the debate. The green waste proposal wasn’t really challenged.”

He added that cuts to the refuse collection and street cleaning service were voted on as a whole package and approved by the Labour group. There was no vote solely on the green waste proposal.

A suggestion that the group should simply approve a global cuts figure and leave the details to be worked out later was rejected “because we would never set a budget at that rate”, Cllr Ward added.

The issue comes at the end of a torrid fortnight for Sir Albert who faced difficulties in getting approval for £6.5 million of cuts from the Fleet and Waste Management Service.

A move to end the free bulky waste collection service was rejected, although councillors did agree to limit the number of times households can use the service, saving £200,000.

The Labour group was also opposed at first to a move to cease providing black and green refuse sacks from April this year leaving residents to make their own arrangements until wheelie bins replace the sacks at the end of 2013-14. However, Sir Albert eventually managed to obtain agreement for the change, which will save the council £1 million a year.

Sir Albert admitted he intended to introduce “significant changes” to fleet and waste management, but insisted he was simply bringing Birmingham into line with other councils where charges for bulky refuse and garden waste collections have been in force for a while.

Labour councillors behind a planned leadership challenge to Sir Albert and Cllr Ward in May regard the controversy over refuse collection as one of the “bread and butter issues” shaping the party’s electoral appeal.

They fear the introduction of a £29 million wheelie bin service later this year could represent the start of a move by Sir Albert and Cllr Ward to contract out the entire fleet and waste management service to a private operator.

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