New garden waste collection charges

Hackney Council has suddenly imposed an annual subscription for having garden waste collected, to take effect from 6th May but lasting initially until 31st March 2025.

While it's fair to charge the relatively small proportion of households which have private gardens with the cost of those collections, that charge should reflect the actual cost of providing the collection service. Assuming that everyone with a garden is rich and can be charged substantially more than that actual cost, to help Hackney reduce its budget shortfall, is clearly wrong. The other services that the Council provides benefit all, or far more, people than the garden waste collection service does, so the cost of those services should be spread evenly across all the borough's residents.

I've compared these new fees with what Hackney's neighbouring councils are charging. Up to now, the only one of those councils which has charged at all is Haringey; the two others still provide the service free.

Tower Hamlets collects two bags of garden waste weekly, at no charge: https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/.../rec.../garden_waste.aspx)

Newham council collects green/garden waste free from 1 March-September, "in normal black bin bags or in tied bundles" - but on request only: https://www.newham.gov.uk/homepage/73/green-and-garden-waste

Haringey charges from £60 (per 140 litre sack or bin) annually for a weekly collection: https://new.haringey.gov.uk/rubbish-recycling/garden-waste

Islington has introduced an annual £75 charge (beginning 1st April 2024) to empty three garden waste bags per fortnight: https://www.islington.gov.uk/recycling-and-rubbish/recycling/garden... NB The charge is halved to £37.50 for householders who receive Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support or Universal Credit.

Hackney wants £78 (per 140 litre brown bin) or £100 to empty two 90-litre garden waste bags, fortnightly: https://hackney.gov.uk/garden-waste. The only people who would pay lower average rates are those who want to have two bins or far more bags emptied regularly - which most Hackney gardeners won't need.

Hackney Council's publicity dishonestly implied that its new charges would be in line with other neighbouring councils' rates, which is clearly not true. Hackney's charges are double those that Islington is introducing from 1st April and Hackney isn't even offering discounted rates to its poorest residents.

The Council assumes that all garden waste can be compostable but, realistically, that only applies to soft green waste. Thin woody prunings still need to be collected (although thicker ones can be used for a log pile). Yet, while many gardeners may only need a small but irreducible amount of their garden waste collected, subscribers may well maximise the garden waste that they put out for collection to make up for having to pay for far more collections than they really need. Those on very tight budgets, who already struggle to both heat their homes and eat properly, will be particularly badly affected by the unavoidably high basic charge.

There are already problems with contractors and others putting garden waste into other people's bins, which cannot effectively be secured against abuse. The Council's waste collectors have also permanently taken away garden waste bags put out for emptying (and return to the householder) since at least February. One cannot now order any further bags without paying Hackney's new subscription rate. Yet most people with back gardens need those bags to bring dirty garden waste through their homes, if only to fill a bin kept at the front of their home.

Hackney Council should have consulted all Hackney gardeners about the practical issues before imposing this system. Rather than charging on the assumption that gardeners need to put out lots of garden waste every fortnight, year round, a fair approach would have been to charge only for the garden waste actually collected, using an equivalent to the visitor parking permits system. Having each full bag or bin emptied might cost more individually but that system would incentivise gardeners to compost etc as much of their garden waste as possible, thus minimising the overall cost of the collection service. It would also minimise the risks of unscrupulous people misusing subscribers' bins and bags.

What do you and your neighbours think?

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Comment by Glyn Harries on April 25, 2024 at 7:10

 Yes agree. Feel this is a poor decision, that won't raise much money and targets people who are already composting but need a way of getting rid of woody material. For me it is a Loquat tree I have inherited that produces a lot of leaves that don't compost at all well.
I had some emails with Hackney Waste and then Sam Kirk the Director. Don't think they will budge though they have now, maybe after me proposing, a 'one bag' option instead of a bin.
I do think it will mean more peopel driving to leyton, more people burning and more people putting green waste into the black bags.
In one email I was told 1500 people have signed up, but that is actually a tiny amount.
I also said why not more community commposting but was told not practical due to the level of supervision needed and contamination - which I guess is true.
And what makes me more annoyed is Sam Kirk also said there appears to be no intention of NLWA / Ecopark to re-introduce the compost deliveries to Hackney, after the re-development at Edmonton is completed.

Comment by Diana Weir on April 10, 2024 at 10:22

It turns out that Hackney want to charge even more for this service than initially advertised.  Were this 'year' not somewhat foreshortened, the lowest charge would have been £85 - not £78. There's an elaborate set of terms and conditions at Hackney Garden Waste Terms and 2024/25 - Google Docs

I hope that the rather forceful complaint and Freedom of Information Act request which I sent in just over a week ago causes the Council to rethink these charges very seriously.

Our existing and prospective Green Party councillors were sent a copy of the complaint privately and have confirmed that they will be following it up with the Council and lobbying against these unlawfully high charges. I've had no response from the one continuing (Labour) councillor in my ward, however.

Comment by Diana Weir on April 1, 2024 at 10:34

When I make a formal complaint to the Council about this - very soon, now that I've done what I can to raise awareness generally - I'll raise the issue of what the service actually costs the Council.

Councils have statutory rights to charge for garden waste collection, so that battle was fought and lost many years ago, but that same statute limits what they can recover for providing that service to "a reasonable charge".  And charging double the amount that Islington, which must only just have costed this service and priced it accordingly, can't be reasonable.

I'll also continue to compost everything that I can. Neighbours whose garden waste is almost entirely of the soft green sort have suggested sharing their bin and my compost heap, to everyone's benefit.

The less that people resort to burning woody waste, the better for local pollution levels. Since bonfires aren't illegal, there's no way to insist on the use of incinerators.

Comment by David Franks on March 30, 2024 at 13:13
Thank you Diana.

Have we any indication of the cost of this service? And of course, how much it actually cost per Council Tax payer.

Of course there a extensive range of non statutory Council services, that all Council Tax pay for. My neighbour noted yesterday, on this basis, who should he pay for a Youth centre, or towards that new swimming pool.

Generally I believe it is short sighted.

Many people will start putting their garden waste back into their black bags or use incinerators.

We will continue to use our composting bins.

Best wishes

David
Comment by Diana Weir on March 29, 2024 at 12:32

Hackney and Islington both claim that only 20% of households in their borough areas have private gardens and may need garden waste collected by their council. That makes it feasible for the councils to recover the cost of garden waste collection from only that 20% who use the service. It does seem unfair to make other residents who don't have private gardens contribute equally towards that cost.

It must be impossible to quantify the numbers who use most other council services, except the schools; childless households might reasonably object to paying for state education. But the law governing councils' right to charge residents for providing that is very different from the statute etc governing charging for the collection of household waste, so that's an argument for someone else who really wants to investigate it. 

I've asked the Hackney Green Party for their views but not yet heard back from them. They're fielding a Green candidate for a by-election in my ward in early May, so she'll undoubtedly be asked about this new charge.

Comment by David Franks on March 29, 2024 at 10:31
One of the main reasons Councils took up the collection of garden waste, was the increasing charges to, waste going to land fill.

Recycling garden waste saved Councils money.

I disagree that the Council should charge for the removal of street properties garden waste.

With all Council services, usage is often limited, rarely 100% usage. Household waste being the one service we all use.

I could say my children do not go to school, we do not use the libraries, we do not use social services etc.

So shouldn't these services be directly charged to the people who are using them?

Introducing a subscription to what will be only a few households, is an inefficient method, very time consuming and costly.

Obvious caveats with such a sevice:
Low take up,
Dumping of garden waste in the street,
Allocation of garden waste into the normal household waste (the old way),
The burning of garden waste.

Just to add.

We are total reusers and recyclers.

Whether it's glass, cardboard, plastic we will try to reuse it. We recycle that plastic film.

We have four very full and very slow composting bins.

The fairest and most effective and economic method, was just to have raised the Council Tax by that little extra.

Whether by 0.1%, 0.5 %, 1 %.

This year the Government encouraged Councils to go to 4.99 per cent and above.


The short fall of £52 m, could have met by an greater increase in Council Tax, this year and previously. Why previously freeze Council Tax at 0 percent. And then cut services.

What does the Greens say on this issue?

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