Steve Cardownie: Doesn't take Nostradamus to predict garden waste charge uproar

It seems that councillors' postbags are starting to fill up with opposition to the proposed £25 annual charge for the collection of garden waste, which is expected to raise £1.3 million in revenue.

Opposition is growing over a £25 annual charge for collecting garden waste in Edinburgh.
Opposition is growing over a £25 annual charge for collecting garden waste in Edinburgh.

The finance convener, Councillor Alasdair Rankine, has already conceded that the proposal to introduce a charge for a service that is currently free will generate “a great deal of interest” – hardly a challenge to Nostradamus with that prediction.

Opposition is gaining momentum. Councillors throughout the city will have constituents who will balk at the idea of paying this extra charge over and above their council tax, which is already set to rise by three per cent.

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Although it is not a statutory function of the council to collect it, the public will argue that gardens by their very nature produce waste, particularly in the summer months, and this needs to be collected and disposed of.

Already some councillors are concerned about the unintended consequences of such a measure with the prospect of garden waste being placed in household waste bins, thereby “contaminating” the contents and affecting recycling procedures, or garden waste being placed in neighbours’ bins, which could cause unnecessary local friction. Such issues are already being raised with councillors, with some receiving numerous emails from constituents detailing their opposition to such a move.

Of course, the budget has to balance and tough decisions will have to be made, but there are concerns that this proposal is hardly likely to boost the council coalition’s popularity and the plan may now have to be re-examined.

I am sure that Mr Rankine will pause to reflect on the matter. He has already stated that “sometimes we’ve put forward proposals and people have reacted very strongly to them and we’ve said we will change that” and I have no reason to doubt that.

The coalition has reassured the public that this is a genuine consultation exercise so the strength and depth of the opposition will be crucial if this proposal is to be reversed.

The problem the coalition may face is that if this proposal is indeed taken “off the table”, the financial gap will have to bridged and that could prove to be more than a little difficult.