Austerity-hit Boston Borough Council is asking residents whether they would rather see its free garden waste collection service be stopped or continue at a price.
The authority has today (Monday) launched a consultation over the future of its ‘brown bin’ service.
It is no longer financially feasible to continue the service in its current form.
It comes in the face of a £500,000-plus budget gap in 2016/17 due to Government austerity measures and forecasts of further reductions in funding from Westminster.
The consultation presents residents with two options: a, stop the service, or b, have it continue but with an annual charge.
Coun Aaron Spencer, the council’s finance portfolio holder, said: “No one would argue that things are not tight, and getting tighter. The council has done well so far; doing its bit to help the country and, so far, without cutting services, but difficult decisions will have to be made.”
Council leader Coun Peter Bedford added: “We are still working hard to identify savings, finding ways of working more efficiently and working more effectively with partners.
“We have tried our hardest to make savings and not raise revenue by increasing council tax.
“We know that people in the borough have been having a hard financial time, too, and we didn’t want to add to that burden.”
Coun Michael Brookes, the council’s deputy leader and the portfolio holder for waste services, said: “We have an excellent record for waste collection services. Recycling targets have been met and exceeded and waste collected that cannot be recycled has been falling.
“We have a mandatory duty to collect household waste and waste which can be recycled. We were also pleased to introduce the excellent free-to-collect garden waste service in 2012 and appreciate that it is greatly valued by the public. However, it is not a mandatory service that we have to provide and is subsidised by the 12,000 households who do not need or use it. We therefore have to look for a fairer way of funding the service if it is to continue in these financially-challenging times.”
The council currently delivers the service 36 weeks a year to those residents that requested the service by purchasing a brown bin (£20 in 2012, rising to £25 from April 2013) - some 16,000 households out of 28,000 properties in Boston.
The cost of the service has been calculated at £300,000.
Coun Spencer said: “It is no longer financially feasible to continue the service in its current form. But there is an opportunity for those who want it, and those who use it, to continue having it if they are prepared to pay for it.”
He said charging for the service on a user-pays basis would be no different to current off-road car parking charges where only those with cars who use the car parks pay and those without cars are not asked to subsidise it.
Rules on waste disposal will mean that the council will not be able to allow garden waste to be placed in the blue (recycling) or green (household waste) wheelie bins, or presented as bagged waste at the side of either bin. This would contaminate the rest of the load in the bin lorries.
Options would be for home composting or for people to take their garden waste to the household waste and recycling centre at Slippery Gowt, which is open seven days a week. These are the current arrangements in neighbouring South Holland District Council where there is no garden waste collection service offered and garden waste can be taken to Spalding’s West Marsh Road tip.
The council says it will be difficult to say what the service charge will be until it is known how many people want to take up the new paid-for collections. The more who do, the cheaper it becomes.
The public consultation will ask for views on different charges, starting at 50p per bin per week.
Questionnaires are available from Municipal Buildings from October 19 to be returned to the freepost address: Transformation Team, Boston Borough Council FREEPOST PHQ17, Boston PE21 8BR. Or you can complete the online survey at www.boston.gov.uk/gardenwastesurvey until Friday, November 13.