Green bin service is still better than most – despite the changes

YOUR readers will be aware that Huntingdonshire District Council has implemented a change to its policy on collecting second green waste bins.

I thought it would be useful to explain the background and rationale to this decision and address the comments that have been made by some of your readers.

Across the council, we’ve been successful with making substantial financial savings due to large cuts in central government funding. To date, we’ve saved £8million per annum with little or no effect on services and quality. This is still not enough. Across the council, we need to save a further £2m per annum, as we are spending more than we receive in Council Tax, reduced central government funding and other income. Residents in Huntingdonshire benefit from one of the lowest district Council Tax charges in the country. Only around 8 per cent of the Council Tax collected is received by the district council, the rest is distributed to the county council, police, fire, and parish/town councils. We cannot rely on a decreasing level of reserves to maintain current spending levels.

Now we’ve stripped out layers of management, made huge efficiency savings and implemented a number of spend to save schemes to improve income generation, it is becoming more challenging to identify savings that don’t have some effect on services.

Collecting green waste is a discretionary service. Historically, councils were encouraged to collect as much green waste as possible, but this service has a cost that is increasing with higher levels of housing growth in the district. The current cost is £1.1m per year. We do not receive any income from green waste – unlike the materials that go into the blue bins that are sold on for recycling.

Around 10 per cent of residents have a second green bin. Councillors were extremely reluctant to introduce charges for second green bins. We looked at other councils locally and further afield, and found that even with this change, our service is still much better than other authorities. Many other authorities have stopped the garden waste collection service, and many authorities that do collect garden waste limit it to a couple of bags - our bins are 220 litres - four or five bags worth, so generous when compared against some other councils.

In Huntingdonshire, we know that residents value the green waste collection service. Councillors felt that by continuing with the green waste bin for all residents and asking for a contribution for a second bin was the fairest way of making savings for the 90 per cent of residents that do not have a second green bin. We’ve provided details of a discounted composting scheme to help to encourage composting for owners of larger gardens.

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The £40 was calculated as the average figure being charged by other councils. We had planned for between 40 per cent and 60 per cent returns, which is in line with the experience at other councils. To date, we’ve had around 3,000 out of 8,500 households tell us that they want to return their second green bins. Each year, we normally buy in excess of 2,000 green bins for replacements and for housing growth, so the council has made savings by not purchasing new green bins.

Opposition councillors are making populist statements criticising the decision, but have not made any meaningful suggestions of how we can save an additional £2m per annum. It’s been left to the Conservative administration to make the difficult decisions. It is important to remember that we have retained a green waste collection service, unlike many councils that have scrapped them in order to make substantial savings. Residents with two green bins have the choice of paying for a second green bin, or continuing with one bin, and returning their second bin to the council.


Executive councillor for the environment

Huntingdonshire District Council