Robert Aldridge: City’s garden tax plan is starting to get messy

Recycling garden waste has become a good habit in Edinburgh ' so why penalise people for doing the right thing? Picture: Jane Barlow
Recycling garden waste has become a good habit in Edinburgh ' so why penalise people for doing the right thing? Picture: Jane Barlow
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It’s not surprising that many residents are furious about the council’s plans for a “garden tax”. This is an extra tax on top of the council tax for anyone who wants a garden waste collection.

The overwhelming majority of people who responded to the city’s budget consultation told the SNP/Labour administration that it was both unfair and would be a bureaucratic nightmare. But they closed their ears and have pressed on regardless. Lib Dems continue to oppose this.

Councillor Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Jane Barlow

Councillor Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Jane Barlow

However it seems predictions that it would be a mess are proving right. The council promised to send out letters in May to all affected residents explaining how it would work and inviting them to pay. It’s now June and nothing has happened.

Councillors have heard nothing about the details of how it is supposed to work. I think we can all predict rows when some neighbours will try to put garden waste in others’ bins. We can easily predict the grey bins will be used by some for garden waste – sending recyclable material to landfill. This not only undermines recycling but also will result in increased landfill tax for the council. And I’m pretty sure we will see an increase in fly tipping.

No-one has made clear what happens to those brown bins which are currently used for communal gardens by residents’ associations. What about those with two bins. Will that still be allowed? Will they pay twice? There has even been a suggestion that where there are gardens linked to a stair, one person will be asked to pay and get the money off their neighbours. Good luck with that!

READ MORE: Edinburgh council to charge for garden waste collection

We haven’t even been told what is happening to our brown bins. Are they to be removed and dumped in a big plastic mountain or will they be left for each of us to dispose of as we think fit? Let’s face it, our refuse collection service has not been the most reliable over the past few years. I’ll be interested to know what refund on the extra tax residents will get if their bin collection is missed and the cost of administering it all. I’ll be very surprised if it results in the full extra income the council expects.

Liberal Democrats have been champions of recycling over the years. When we were in power in the city we introduced year-round garden waste collections. People like recycling waste, and recycling garden waste has become a good habit. Yet the SNP and Labour councillors want to penalise them for doing the right thing by making them pay an extra charge.

As one of my colleagues suggested tongue in cheek: have they reserved a space in the ceremonial cabinet at the City Chambers for the fag packet on which this policy was devised?

READ MORE: Letters: Instead of a bin tax, how about a student tax?

Meanwhile, many people are only just becoming aware of a big change which will make it more expensive for a large number of community-run groups to operate. The SNP/Labour council is implementing a change in how janitorial time is allocated to schools and community centres.

It means many local groups will have to pay the full cost of janitors (or indeed overtime costs) where these had been covered by the council before. This will add hundreds of pounds to running costs of many excellent groups over a year and may well result in significant numbers having to fold. At the same time (and quite rightly) the council and Lothain Health want to ensure more people in need of care can stay at for home longer. If that is to work people will need local clubs and groups to help keep them lively and well.

A small saving in janitorial hours can lead to a huge expense in residential care. It’s time the council joined up its thinking on these issues and realised the real value of low-level “preventative” community work.