The prospect of Fylde residents having to pay for the collection of garden waste from this summer could lead to an increase in fly-tipping - and even cost jobs.
That’s the stark warning from a leading opposition councillor and green campaigner after it was revealed that a special meeting of Fylde Council’s Operational Management Committee will be asked next week to consider an annual charge similar to that being introduced next month by neighbouring Wyre.
A charge of £30 per bin appears a likely option - and could be introduced as early as August - as Fylde looks to mitigate the impending loss of Lancashire County Council’s contribution to the provision of the service, which costs £562,000 per year.
But Coun Tony Ford, who has led the Liberal Democrats’ Christmas tree collection service around St Annes in recent years, said: “Fylde has worked hard to increase recycling rates but has more to do yet and introducing a charge, however small, would I feel act as a disincentive to householders.
“It’s likely to add to fly-tipping - which we have seen after the Conservatives on the County Council decided to close St Annes ‘tip’ - and now we have another group of Conservative councillors proposing to make yet another decision that will have a negative effect on the local environment.
“I fear it could create redundancies if the number of collection rounds and vehicles are reduced and inevitably, green waste will be put into grey bins so tonnages to landfill will increase.
“That will increase costs for Fylde and rotting vegetation and organic waste will create more methane and other gases impacting on air quality.
“Collecting green waste helps everyone and produces quality compost that goes back into gardens and generates income - it’s a healthy cycle.
“Levying a charge is likely to lead to a reduced take-up, therefore increasing unit costs for collection. It will become cost inefficient for the council and unit collection costs will increase as vehicles will still be the travelling along the same road but collecting fewer bins.
“We are likely to see the return of garden bonfires to get rid of green waste thus reducing air quality – it’s a short-sighted solution.”
The cost of the green collection service was previously met through a agreement between Fylde and Lancashire, which is set to end in April 2018 amid major budget savings at County Hall.
Coun David Eaves, chairman of Fylde Council’s Operational Management Committee, said: “Local authorities are not required to collect green waste and can make a charge for any arrangements to do so. The cost of this service has been supported by the County Council’s payments.
“Not all properties in Fylde currently have a green waste bin as not all have gardens. But those that do, and who subscribe to the chargeable service, will continue to benefit from fortnightly collections of garden waste, if a scheme is introduced.
“Obviously we would prefer not to even have to consider charges for this service, but the county council is removing £763,000 per year that contributes to the cost of running the service.
“We have to make this decision in the context of other council services.
“I am sure there will be a lot of debate about a chargeable service that residents will opt into, but we want to carry on providing the service which is very useful to householders with gardens as opposed to no longer having a service at all.
“The £30 annual charge that the committee will consider is below the national average of £35 and will amount to £1.16 per collection for residents who sign up to the service.
“It won’t be compulsory, although we hope that residents will subscribe to the service.
“Many, of course, already compost their garden waste and we encourage that. However, this proposed service will save many from making unnecessary trips to waste and recycling centres and will, we expect, provide good value for money.”
August this year has been mooted as a possible date for the introduction of a subscription service if agreed, with a Fylde Council spokesman adding: “Experience elsewhere in the country where ‘green waste’ charges already exist is that initial take-up is slow but that it gradually rises to economic levels.
“If we do decide to charge we will also need time to set up new administrative systems. It means that the arrangements and costings surrounding any new system would need time to settle down before the County Hall money is finally withdrawn.
“If the committee agrees to charges, they may defer their introduction until next year.”
Meanwhile, independent councillor Liz Oades has questioned why the prospect of green waste charges were not discussed at Fylde’s budget meeting on March 2.
A Fylde Council spokesman said: “At the time of the budget, consultation and research into the option was still taking place as well as ongoing work with the wider Lancashire Waste Review.
“Although it still has to be completed it now appears not to be delivering the savings required.”