Published: 09/03/2017 20:00 - Updated: 09/03/2017 15:43

Pay £30 bin fee - or lose teachers

Written byNeil MacPhail

People will have to pay an annual £30 charge for their brown bins.
People will have to pay an annual £30 charge for their brown bins.

A PETITION against the £30 brown bin charge has reached more than 1000 signatures in only 10 days.

But the councillor in charge of the scheme said yesterday there was little chance of it being dumped despite the online protest.

Allan Henderson, chairman of Highland Council’s community services committee, said it was a choice between paying for a garden waste collection or losing vital jobs like teachers.

“I would be very surprised if there was a U-turn,” he said. “It is a budget saving of £660,000 we are talking about.

“The options are horrendous, such as having 20 to 40 fewer teachers or not spending money on roads.

“The brown bin charge is a soft option compared with cutting other services.

“How often do we hear people say, ‘spare the money for the bairns and for looking after the old... we can pay a wee bit extra.’.

“I understand that.”

Many householders have reacted with anger to the council’s plans, which will come into force in July and generate an estimated £660,000 for the local authority, helping to plug a £20 million funding gap. It follows a decision to raise council tax by a minimum of three per cent from April 1 and comes at a time when the council isare cutting back on street cleaning and maintenance.

Mr Henderson stressed many households in the Highlands do not have a brown bin, and the new charge was an opportunity for neighbours to get together and share the cost.

He also said householders who decide not to pay the charge, and drive their garden waste to the recycling centre, would have to weigh up if that would be cheaper than £30 a year.

Customers opting to pay will be written to and invoiced for the charge, and large stickers will be put on the bins to let the collectors know the charge has been paid.

If the new scheme goes well, the council will consider rolling it out to those who do not get the brown bins at present.

Those who choose notdon’t want to pay, will have their brown bin taken away.

Asked what will happen if householders put garden waste in the green house waste bins, Mr Henderson said: “It is something we will have to live with. We would hope they wouldn’t do that, although there are people who do that already. We need extra education about this.”

Cllr Henderson also warned of a looming “doom scenario” in 2020

21 when Scottish local authorities will be banned from taking stuff to landfill and the emphasis will be on “waste to energy” schemes which have already proved controversial in the north.

“This is giving us the chance to operate in a more commercial way,” Mr Henderson said.

The petition started by local woman Diane Wilkinson states: “We disagree wholeheartedly with the decision of the Highland Council to charge £30 per year for the uplifting of brown garden waste bins. We believe that this charge will result in a dramatic increase in fly-tipping and will unfairly discriminate against those on low incomes who will struggle to afford this, given the one per cent increase in council rents and the three per cent increase in Council Tax across the Highland Council area.

“Therefore the charge is ill thought out and unfair and Highland Council’s plans to levy this should be scrapped immediately.”

Many people have raised concerns that the extra charge will lead to an increase in fly tipping.

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