‘Garden tax’ roll-out prompts fears of further council charges

The annual collection of Christmas trees after the festive season will remain free. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The annual collection of Christmas trees after the festive season will remain free. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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The city council has refused to guarantee that it will not charge residents for any other services it provides, following the roll-out of a controversial garden waste tax.

Householders will be charged £25 a year for garden waste to be collected, with collections moving from three-weekly to fortnightly.

The charge, branded a “garden tax” was due to be rolled out in July, but will now not come into force until October.

Almost 10,000 people have signed up to the scheme since registration opened last week.

It is estimated the extra levy will bring a £1.3m in revenue,

Liberal Democrat councillors warned that the policy risks being the “thin edge of the wedge” on new fees for any other council services as the policy was not in the administration’s budget.

Garden tax registration letters sent out to households this week said that “the collection of garden waste is not paid for council tax because it is not a statutory service”.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang asked transport and environment convener Cllr Lesley Macinnes whether she could guarantee no further services would require a supplementary fee in the future.

Cllr Lang said: “As soon as SNP councillors decided to introduce the new garden tax, people have been asking whether this is the thin end of the wedge. The transport and environment convener’s refusal to rule out new charges will only add to the concern.

“Just like garden waste collection, basic services such street lighting and road gritting in winter are classed as non-statutory. Yet the transport convener couldn’t even rule out new charges for these kinds of basic services.

“There is a key question coming out this month’s council meeting: What will SNP councillors start charging for next?”

In response to Cllr Lang’s question, Cllr Macinnes said that residents were “accepting this garden charge”.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Robert Aldridge quizzed council leader Cllr Adam McVey about the issue.

He said: “I wonder if the council leader could make a commitment that there won’t be any other non-statutory charges put in.”

Cllr McVey pointed out that there were “massive pressures on our finances and council services” and that decisions may have to be made whether to “stop providing that entirely or find alternative methods of providing that service”.

He added: “We will have ­robust conversations about what services are important to the people of Edinburgh.”

The council administration revealed that Christmas trees will not be subject to the garden tax.

Cllr Macinnes confirmed that although households face the new annual fee for the collection of brown bin garden waste, the collection of Christmas trees for recycling will remain free.

Cllr Lang added: “I am pleased the transport and environment convener has agreed this popular and well-used service will remain free.

“However, given the desire of the administration to charge for basic services, it would not surprise if even Christmas tree recycling gets taxed in the years to come.”

Concerns had also been raised that people paying the garden tax would not be able to hand over cash but would instead have to go online to pay, raising concerns it would make it difficult for older people to pay.