Chatteris man who organised 1,600 signatures to halt brown bin charges gets rebuffed by Fenland District Council

Lawrence Weetman organised a petition against brown bin charges for Fenland- and addressed councillo

Lawrence Weetman organised a petition against brown bin charges for Fenland- and addressed councillors. - Credit: Archant

A plea to halt the introduction of a likely £40 a year charge for brown bin collections – supported by a petition with 1,600 signatures- has failed.

Lawrence Weetman of Chatteris organised the petition and presented it to a full meeting of Fenland Council on Thursday.

But councillors voted not to send the proposals back for discussion to the overview and scrutiny committee. Instead details of the charges will now be presented to cabinet next month with a view to introducing them from next April.

The council has traditionally provided brown bins as a free service but with costs now running at £700,000 a year it was a service targeted during a comprehensive spending review that has been under way for the past year.

Having rejected the possibility of introducing parking charges, councillors were asked to consider other ways to reduce council spending.

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A consultation by Fenland Council drew 12,500 responses out of a possible 40,000 households and these, too, are now being considered.

Officials are predicting a new service will become self-funding and figures agreed by cabinet that the cost would be £34.50 year if 20,000 opt in rising to £46.77 if only 12,000 (i.e. 30 per cent) want to pay.

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Nearly half of all local councils across the country have agreed or propose a similar scheme.

A council spokesman said: “We are proposing to stop the free collection of garden waste bins and introduce an ‘opt-in’ chargeable collection scheme.

“This would be available to all properties in Fenland with a suitable collection point. “The proposal will also stop the garden waste sack service.”

The spokesman added: “Due to reductions in central government funding, Fenland District Council is making choices about where it must save money. Like many of our neighbouring councils, it is suggested that savings are made by charging for the kerbside collection of garden (brown bin) waste.”

Mr Weetman said: “I am disappointed that councillors are treating this matter as a done deal.”

Mr Weetman said he was disappointed that the council had rejected his petition and only fuelled the “deep resentment amongst the public against ‘the establishment’ at both a national and local level. In times of austerity and cut-backs, people don’t recognise their politicians as people who work for them.

“While people’s incomes have sustained a prolonged period of stagnation, council taxes have risen. As those taxes have risen, services have been cut.

“As people see the tangible benefits they get from their council tax - from grass cutting to highway maintenance - slipping away they begin to further distrust those politicians.”

He said: “Fenland charges the highest rates of council tax in Cambridgeshire. The Fenland portion of council tax on a Band D property is more than £250 per year. This is £69 a year more than the next closest council, Cambridge City, and - shamefully - double the £125 a year charged by South Cambs.

“The garden waste tax effectively increases this already inflated level of taxation by another 16 per cent.”

He said councillors might argue that this only represents 70p a week “ but this is a 70p a week increase on top of a charge that many in Fenland are already struggling to afford, especially with the proposed cuts to Council Tax Support”.

Mr Weetman told councillors: “Things have been quite good for you in Fenland up until now. Some of you have held or gained your seats with no opposition.

“Many others have faced very little opposition. If councillors keep riding roughshod over residents then that may change in the future.”

Independent councillor Virginia Bucknor tried to persuade colleagues to rethink the proposals by sending it back to the scrutiny committee.

She said after the meeting: “While we were told, ‘we have to do it, because of the cuts and no one accepted car parking charges’, the particular point made by Lawrence was poignant (and ignored):

“In Peterborough they saw landfill waste increase by 2,300 tonnes across a five-month period. This increase was almost identical to the drop in waste in the food and garden waste recycling bins.

“The council found that 45 per cent of the contents in their landfill bins were “recyclable organic matter”, matter which would go in residents’ garden waste bins. “This increase in landfill waste cost Peterborough an additional £118,000 over a five month period. I’d argue that this was low because of Peterborough’s waste to energy facility. In Fenland, the landfill tax alone over those five months would cost more than £200,000.”

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