Residents uncertain by mixed messages from Council over ‘garden tax’ payment

Diane Donald. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Diane Donald. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Uncertainty over who qualifies for exemption from the impending new levy on garden waste collections continues as advice dished out to residents contradicted the letter issued to households.

Diane Donald from Portobello, who receives a council tax reduction, attempted to sign up for the service, but was advised that despite being in receipt of the benefit she would still have to 
pay.

Dubbed the “garden tax” by opposition parties, the £25 annual fee applies to all 
households unless the resident receives council tax reduction – formerly called council tax benefit.

Ms Donald said: “I went online to try to register, but it was very difficult and halfway through there was an error, so I tried to register over the phone.

“I explained that I get council tax reduction because we’re on a low income and she said ‘that doesn’t matter at all, you will still have to pay’.

“That is not what it said in the letter and I said I was going to take it further.”

Ms Donald said she was told by the council employee the wording in the letter had not been clear and she would have to pay the levy. But the council has now stressed this was a miscommunication.

A council spokeswoman said: “Those who receive council tax reduction are exempt from paying for the new garden waste collection 
service. We apologise to anyone who believes they have been told otherwise and would advise them to contact us for clarification.”

Tory Cllr Jason Rust said the practicalities of the introduction of the charge was 
 concerning.

He said: “It is an absolute morass and no wonder the public are confused when council employees inundated with queries are also trying to keep apace of the changing processes and procedures.

“I have been very concerned at the amount of misinformation and poor communication during this implementation, including conflicting information on the website and telephone or personal contact.

“It is really disappointing if those exempt from the scheme are finding themselves targeted erroneously by the council for payment.”

Scottish Government figures from September last year show nearly 35,000 people are entitled to council tax reduction in Edinburgh.

The controversial charge for a fortnightly collection, changed from every three weeks, was due to be rolled out in June, but has been delayed until October 5.

Brown bins will continue to be picked up over the rest of the summer.