A SYSTEM set up just six weeks ago to charge tens of thousands of people for collecting their garden waste has been scrapped.
The £20 charge to empty brown garden waste bins in North Tyneside from March to November was met by widespread opposition.
More than 30,000 of the 50,000 users of the collection service, introduced by the council in 2005, opted not to pay. Now North Tyneside Council’s cabinet has agreed to remove the fee and refund the 19,236 who did pay up.
Opponents claimed that charging was against the council’s policy of encouraging people to recycle and reduce North Tyneside’s carbon footprint, that it would lead to increased landfilling and fly tipping, plus the environmental costs of thousands of extra car trips to the council’s waste centre.
North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley said the decision had been made after listening to residents’ concerns and reviewing environmental services budgets and priorities.
She said: “Last year the budget agreed by full council included the proposed introduction of a £20 charge for garden waste collection.
“Since then we have been able to consult with our residents and whilst this is a move many local authorities are pursuing without a great deal of objection, North Tyneside residents identified a number of concerns around the scheme and its implementation. Another important factor is we are in a stronger financial position in this service area following our successful bid of £3.3m funding for our household waste management services.”
In a recent budget consultation, 82% of people were against the charge.
Mrs Arkley said: “It is clear that many people do not support the charge for garden waste collection, even though similar schemes are in place elsewhere in the North East. They feel it is at odds with our commitment to the environment, an area in which we have made huge strides in recent years.
“I have therefore reviewed the overall resource position, which is strengthened by our success in winning Government funding for the retention of weekly collections.
“I feel that the right thing to do now is to remove this charge.
“I have asked that officers start work on a plan to arrange refunds to those who have paid.” A report to cabinet said that set-up costs for the charging scheme were £25,000 and refund costs could be an estimated £47,000 although efforts will be made to reduce this.
Whitley Bay church warden and councillor Sandra Graham said: “I am delighted common sense has prevailed. People in Whitley Bay take pride in their gardens and expect the council to support them in this and not penalise them.”
Coun Norma Redfearn, Labour candidate in the next Mayoral election, said: “This scheme was ill thought out from the outset in terms of costs and what the council stands for on issues like recycling and reducing our carbon footprint.”
This scheme was ill thought out from the outset in terms of costs and what the council stands for