Huntingdonshire District Council's Cabinet Members have agreed to introduce a fortnightly garden waste subscription service that will come into effect in April 2024.
The optional service will cost £57.50 for one garden waste bin to be collected for the whole year. Residents will also be able to share bins with neighbours to reduce the cost.
There will still be the option to purchase additional garden bins and these will be charged at £30 for each additional bin, up to a maximum of four bins.
The existing free garden bin service will cease at the end of this financial year (31 March 2024) and be replaced with a new chargeable garden waste collection service from April 2024.
Residents will be able to sign up for the garden waste subscription service in the new year, with plenty of time for 1 April 2024, when the subscription service comes into effect. This will allow sufficient time to plan the new routes for collections across the district.
More information will be available towards the end of this year (2023) as the new service comes forward and this web page, along with our social media accounts, will be updated accordingly. Thank you for your patience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the council introducing a garden waste subscription service?
Like many councils across the country, we are facing financial challenges. Over the next four years we need to find ways to save money or generate income as rising costs and inflation, combined with cuts in government grants, mean there is a threat that the council could be in a potential deficit of £9.7 million.
As a result, we face a balance between maintaining services we are legally required to deliver, so-called statutory services, with those that we know are highly valued but do not come with legal duties. We want to protect against service cuts in all areas, but we must make some difficult decisions to ensure our finances are sustainable for future years.
Unlike household waste and recycling, there's no legal requirement to collect garden waste, so councils can charge for collections. Rather than remove the service, we want to keep the service for those that need and value it.
Around 65% of authorities across England and half of the waste collection authorities in the Eastern Region have already opted to charge for household garden waste.
Not all properties in Huntingdonshire require a garden waste collection service as they do not have a garden. Introducing a subscription means the service will only be paid for by those households that choose to use it.
This is similar to bulky waste collections where only households requesting the service have to pay.
Why can’t the charge be added to Council Tax?
There is no legal requirement to collect garden waste so many local authorities charge for this service in order to continue to be able to offer collections. Councillors agreed that it was important to continue to offer a garden waste collection service for residents who wish to use it rather than stop it, so we will act in line with the majority of other councils and introduce a subscription service.
Council Tax itself is a mandatory payment that covers a variety of services such as fire, police, adult social care and children's services, including education. You may not use all these services but you still have to pay Council Tax. This change brings the garden waste collection in line with other not legally required, pay for services, such as bulky waste collection, which is a service only paid for by people who use it.
We collect Council Tax on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Cambridgeshire Fire Authority, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, as well as town and parish councils across the district.
We keep just 7p of every £1 of Council Tax collected as the other elements are determined by the other organisations. The Council Tax we retain is significantly lower than our neighbours, and the national average for shire districts.
What do I do if I don't want to subscribe to the garden waste service?
We will make arrangements to remove green bins from those who no longer want them once the new service has been introduced in April 2024.
Please note that only empty green bins will be collected and removed so do not fill them. Check back in early 2024 for further details on how to request a green bin removal.
This will impact on lower income households in the district and/or those on lower Council Tax bands. What will be done to support those people?
Not all households with a garden bin use the service - out of the 83% of properties that can access the service, 30% don't regularly use it.
For households on lower incomes, we will support residents through the Council Tax Support Scheme, which calculates the contribution required based on the benefits they are in receipt of. A review of this scheme in 2023 will ensure the most financially vulnerable residents are offered the greatest level of Council Tax Support award.
Residents in our district who need additional guidance can email the Residents Advice and Information team at firstname.lastname@example.org. They assess the person's personal circumstances and work with them to suggest suitable changes and routes to small funding pots that can help to achieve their goals.
We will continue to encourage residents on lower incomes to contact the Residents Advice and Information team at email@example.com. To explore the ways they may be able to reduce their household expenditure and/or apply for funding if the retention of a garden waste collection service is important in their household, to maintain positive physical and mental health.
In addition, households on lower incomes will be welcome to share bins under their own informal arrangements but only one household will be responsible for the subscription and adherence to the terms and conditions of the scheme.
Won't people just put their garden waste in the grey bin adding to operational costs and decreasing environmental benefits?
42% of the waste we collect in the grey bin is organic waste. We want to work with our local community to find better ways to reduce, recycle, reuse and collect all waste.
Approximately 70% of the food waste from UK households that enters the residual waste stream is edible. By cutting food waste the average UK household can save £500 each year.
Evidence from The Strategic Waste Systems Review 2020, undertaken by Local Partnerships, also identified that once a chargeable garden waste service is implemented 31% of garden waste disappears due to behaviour change.
Won't this lead to an increase in fly-tipping?
About 65% of English Waste Collection Authorities have introduced a charge for collecting garden waste and they have not reported an increase in fly-tipping. Officers have been investigating the likelihood of increased fly-tipping based on data from authorities that already charge for garden waste collections. This data shows that the majority have not seen any increase in instances of garden waste fly-tipping, with only a handful reporting a marginal increase in the first year of implementation.
We do have existing methods for clearing waste and prosecuting offenders and can issue anyone caught fly tipping with a fixed penalty notice of £400. Serious offences of fly tipping are punishable by an unlimited fine, or up to five years in prison.
In addition, we invested in new technology such as improved CCTV cameras as well as supporting national campaigns to tackle fly tipping.
Can I share a bin with my neighbour? If so, how will this be managed?
People will be able to make a personal arrangement with a neighbour to share the cost of the additional garden bin service. We would allocate the bin to the property that pays for it and will withdraw it if payment is not received.
If people share their garden waste bin with a neighbour, the householder who pays the annual charge will have overall responsibility for the bin, as a bin can only be allocated to one address. It would be the responsibility of the named householder if the bin is contaminated, misused, or needs replacing.
Why have the public not been consulted on the proposals?
At a Full Council meeting in December 2022, councillors agreed on a set of budget principles. These principles included the need to protect front-line services and that non-statutory services, such as garden waste collections, or those that compete in a commercial environment, should not be a burden on taxpayers who cannot take advantage of them.
Councils sometimes have a statutory requirement to consult their residents and this is especially true for issues such as planning, or redevelopments. Statutory consultations are bound by legal requirements and can have strict rules surrounding how they should be conducted.
Guidance from the Local Government Association also states that there are a number of situations where a consultation would not be required. This includes where a council's room for manoeuvre is limited (for example by statutory or budgetary restrictions) and as a result, any consultation would not change the final decision.
Legally, the council is required to set a balanced budget and given some of the financial challenges we are facing, introducing a garden waste subscription service has been identified as one of the ways we can protect our front-line services and protect against service cuts.
Were other alternatives to introducing a subscription service considered?
Other options, such as pausing collections in the winter or collecting every three weeks, were considered. However, by introducing a subscription service that is provided all year round, we will be able to protect our front-line services, maintain a balanced budget and set a sustainable Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).
The cost of garden waste collection is distributed among all taxpayers, through funding diverted from other services, regardless of their usage or benefit. By directly charging for this service, we establish a system where those who actively utilise the service contribute to its funding.
Won't this increase pressure on recycling centres, and concerns for management of increased traffic on the highways?
We have a close working relationship with Cambridgeshire County Council and will monitor to see if there is any increased pressure on household recycling centres.
Is charging for garden waste legal?
Charging for garden waste collection is legal. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, councils can charge for the collection of garden waste.
Unlike household waste and recycling, there's no legal requirement to collect garden waste and councils can charge for collections. The income from charging for garden waste collections would make the service self-financing. Well over half of all councils in England charge for this service and have done so for many years.
What impact will this have on the environment and CO2 reductions?
Not all properties in Huntingdonshire require the service and only those residents who have a need for the service will subscribe. This approach will reduce vehicle movement numbers and positively reduce the CO2 emissions of the waste collection service.
The forecasted CO2 emissions for a chargeable garden waste service in Huntingdonshire is 802.79 tonnes. This is a 369.17 tonne reduction from our current garden waste service. These are based on the Carbon Warm factors calculations from DEFRA.
Garden waste can also be composted or used for mulch - these approaches are much better for the environment than our current collection methods.