Aug 05 2015

Arse about Face: Harrow’s Brown Bin Charges to “reduce landfill waste”

harrow_council_logoIt seems our illustrious Council have, yet again, got things arse about face, back to front, and/or upside down, once they start talking about waste collection.Today’s missive from the Civic Centre says that the plan to charge £75 a year are “…intended to reduce the amount of waste the Council sends to landfill…” and “…make Harrow the best borough in London for recycling by 2017.”

Lofty dreams indeed. But of course, saying one thing, and actually doing it, are two entirely different things. Now, unless we’ve missed something – and that’s entirely possible, since the council refuses to answer questions on this, or any other subject – it seems the brown bin charge will achieve exactly the opposite: increase waste going to landfill.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example: Marge lives alone, and works at least five, often six, long days a week. She’s fastidious about sorting her waste, putting empty gin bottles, takeaway cartons, and copies of Hello! magazine into her blue bin each week. Once every couple of weeks, she’ll cut her lawn, trim her bush, and have a general tidy up in the garden, and place all that into her brown bin. Some weeks, she doesn’t need to drag the brown bin down to the pavement because it’s only got a few food scraps in – once in a blue moon, she’ll end up sitting on the lid to squash down the heap of brambles, or kniphofia trimmings into it – but generally, she doesn’t create too much. All her waste – mostly recyclables, with a little  – maybe half a bin, at most? – general waste and some garden waste is collected as part of her council tax.

Under the new scheme, Marge is faced with paying a further £75 a year, which she considers to be outrageous, and anyway, she doesn’t want to be queuing at the dump for 45 minutes on a Sunday afternoon with the rest of the borough. So instead, she buries her grass clippings in a black bag at the bottom of her green bin, topping it up with the pickings from her Dyson, a few plastic bags, some polysytrene chips from a spot of Ebaying, and maybe some dog mess from her garden to discourage the dustbin men (sorry, refuse workers) from poking through it. So, she’s now filling a green bin every two weeks, her recyclables stay the same, and her brown bin gets returned to the council.

Dave’s vision of reducing landfill waste evaporates. In fact, landfill waste will actually increase, as Marge, and her fellow residents, hide perfectly good compostable waste in their green bin, to avoid paying the annual council tax supplement.

And has the council defined “food waste” yet? If apples drop from my neighbours’ trees into my garden, are they garden waste, or are they food waste? And how about untreated wood (which is perfectly compostable) – does this now end up going to landfill? After all, it’s not a food item, so cant’ go in the new slop bucket being provided. And what the heck do I do with leaves from the council’s trees on the street which blow into my front garden?

And how does this “£25 concessionary rate” work? If residents have to pay £75/year (or part of it), what happens if someone qualifies for the concessionary rate for only a short period – do they get a subsequent bill for £75 (since the council says it’s £75 or nothing – no half way point)? Do they just pay £50 to top it up to the £75 bill? Or do they pay nothing extra, even though they no longer receive benefits, and simply run out the rest of the year on the cheaper rate?

So given all that, how does Dave intend this to propel Harrow to the top of the recycling league? You’d probably think he could put dog crap bins in parks, which would make sifting through park waste far more palatable in the search for recycling. There are even an assortment of dog waste composters (basically, a bucket buried in the ground, which allows any deposited waste to degrade into the soil. Sounds ideal for a park area, with a “fit and forget” implementation?

The answer is, we don’t know. Dave’s bunch of sorry misfits aren’t allowed to communicate with iharrow, and the council itself has refused to entertain any questions, so we’ll never know. Or, at least, until it all goes wrong, landfill rates rise, and Dave’s £2,000,000 per year of savings – or, as the council’s PR spin doctors put it, “the equivalent of over 30 social workers or repairing 57,000 potholes” fail to materialise. Talking of spin doctors, they also tell us it’s just “twenty pence a day” which seems a bit rich, considering they plan to collect just once every two weeks. Dodgy maths, smoke and mirrors is nothing new from that lot, but £75 divided by 25 collections makes it more like £3 a day.

So, let’s predict what’ll happen: “The savings envisaged failed to materialise, due to lack of resident engagement.” Fabulous: blame the residents for not doing something they didn’t even ask for, something they told the council wouldn’t work.

But then, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best was never going to be the best way to run a council, Dave.


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  1. mike mcfadden

    Just more waste thrown onto our streets. Unreal.

  2. Linda Robinson

    I’ve got my fingers crossed that Dave and his cronies will hear us and nip this silly idea in the bud before it’s too late to avoid having to confess it’s cost us all a lot, both in budget and in reputation. Far from increasing recycling rates, we will see them plummet, for exactly the reasons you mention, Paul, and more. I’ve spoken face to face with Dave about this, but he just doesn’t seem to grasp anything about it. What’s written in the latest Harrow People and on the website is blatant claptrap and just makes them look like idiots after what was said in the last fanfare about it.

    We’ve all told them – you, me, Susan Hall, thousands of people who’ve signed the petition, written to the paper and posted on social media etc. – but Dave can’t yet bring himself to admit he’s making a big mistake. If he doesn’t wise up sharpish, from October we will be locked into contracts to pay for more bins (outdoor food waste bins; little kitchen “caddies”; smaller replacement green bins too now, apparently), storage or disposal of existing bins (unused brown wheelies and replaced green ones), extra collection lorries on certain days (and presumably extra staff costs too). Plus there will be extra landfill tax to pay. And, now, not even any prospect of collecting a single penny extra from residents until six months down the line. How on earth do they think it’s going to make any savings? Is someone getting a back-hander?

    Come April, when we’ve got used to the new bins and schedules without being overwhelmed with garden waste in winter, not many people will pay up, especially not the pensioners who were originally promised they would be exempt from the charge. They are of a generation who used to happily burn their garden waste on bonfires, and then they were told they couldn’t have bonfires any more but their garden waste would be collected in big brown bins instead. Many don’t have the means or ability to get to the dump with it. When I told my mum about the latest changes to the plans, she said, “Well what do they expect us to do?”. I said, “They expect you to pay £75”. She looked at me as if I’d suggested she should fly to the moon. She won’t pay; I won’t pay; cash-strapped families won’t pay; landlords won’t pay for their tenants; tenants won’t pay, they’ll just neglect their gardens. People who see nothing wrong with dumping furniture and appliances in streets and alleyways certainly won’t hesitate to leave sacks of leaves or prunings in the gutter.

    If this madness goes ahead it will be a costly administrative nightmare which would be very unlikely to be implemented smoothly or efficiently even if everyone was prepared to keep to the rules. Neighbours sharing bins? People paying for one off collections? Benefit claimants unclear where they stand? You can imagine the muddle and the additional pressure on Access Harrow, let alone the literal mess in the streets.

    Come on Dave, please don’t let Harrow suffer at the hands of your foolish pride. The current waste arrangements work exceptionally well. No amount of Harrow People gloss can hide the fact that you made a stupid decision, but you can still do the honourable thing and admit you got it completely wrong. Otherwise you will find it even harder to balance the books next year and everyone will have less respect for you than ever. I don’t want to have to say I told you so.

  3. Sarah

    “£75 divided by 25 collections makes it more like £3 a day.”

    Considering that half of those collections will be through months that people don’t garden much and therefore have an empty bin, it will be more like £6 per collection.

    .This crackpot idea is going to end up costing the Council a fortune.

  4. F.D.Billson

    This proposed decision by this god-forsaken Labour council is complete madness. The system that we have is working perfectly well and this intended decision will be regressive , cost the council money, be very inconvenient and costly for residents, and cause the borough to become more untidy than it already is. Is anyone actually thinking at Harrow Council ?

  5. Concerned Harrovian

    Some of our Council tax could pay for the current administration to attend classes in remedial maths. Commenters on this site have tried to explain how basic numeracy works but they just don’t seem to understand.

  6. Gary

    What never ceases to amaze me on this site is advertisements for waste collection all at high prices, if anyone actually had any reasonable comprehension about cost and landfill then they would actually ascertain that the councils waste services are extreme value for money. of course the residents contribute to diversion from landfill to reduce expenditure. but what we have to remember it is this government who have decided to reduce the funding for services. it would be more proactive to petition Mr Cameron & Co to stop misusing the system and paying themselves a 10% pay increase yet claim approx. £13,000 per month on their expenses credit cards. this is also public money, wouldn’t it be great to live cost free at the public expense and enjoy saving £74,000 per annum by not having to incur day to day costs out of our hard earned salaries.

  7. Mike N

    Does anyone else get fed up listening to Labours failings being blamed on Tory Governments time after time after time.

  8. Gary

    Hi Mike N, maybe you are quite comfortable with a tory government that withholds freedom of information requests regarding the amount of deaths resulting in welfare benefits being stopped. maybe you should view ATOS the contractors employed by the DWP who consistently fail to comply with medical assessment regulations, or maybe you support the alleged actions of individuals like Edward Heath or Thatcher the Milk Snatcher, or a prime minister who leaves his child in a public house, same old tory spin by those that cannot face up to reality.

  9. Susan Hall

    Gary try and deflect blame as much as you like. The Harrow Labour administration have got this wrong.Harrow residents are paying an exceptionally high Council Tax and they expect a good waste collection to be included in that charge. The system we have now works well and should be left as it is. Whenever I have asked questions about the implementation of this new scheme I am not given satisfactory answers, its a mess. The Labour administration decide where they spend our money and looking at the state of our parks and streets shows us all that money is not spent on keeping Harrow cleaner and well maintained. They would clearly rather spend our money on expensive consultants and raise additional money from us (£75 Garden Tax)- disgraceful. For those opposed to the Garden Tax brown bin charge please sign the petition http://www.change.org/p/harrow-council-drop-plans-for-75-brown-bin-charge-2

  10. Lisa

    How about the council go and get rid of all the extra general waste bins out there having only one would reduce the landfill charges hugely. I see on my street people with 2/3 of these bins no recycling done at these properties!! Why should they they can just chuck in their green bin.Give out more recycling bins? How much to get rid of recycling? Got to be cheaper than normal rubbish? Therefore reducing the massive landfill charges. Just a thought Councillors!!!!!

  11. Gary

    whilst I do not disagree with your posting, I am not deflecting blame just the absurd Barnet formula, which is seriously out of date when considering the funding received borough by borough and the vast funding anomalies. the absurd point is that I-harrow seems to be supporting and promoting external waste collection providers. the external providers costs clearly demonstrates Harrow Council are in fact value for money. Regarding the state of our streets again I don’t disagree, but a serious culture change is required by nomadic residents who appear to believe the council is responsible for collecting household items disposed of on the streets. however Susan it would be helpful if both political parties challenged the governments funding formula, or do you disagree?

    1. iharrow.com

      Gary – iharrow doesn’t “support and promote” external waste collection providers. I suspect that what you’re seeing is adverts tailored to your browsing history or the page content. I’d expect UNISON, and I could be wrong, to be against this new-fangled brown bin charging, as it’s surely likely to lead to a reduction in work, and thus, jobs, for your members?

  12. Susan Hall

    Lisa, a good point. While responsible we Conservatives employed three recycling officers to go round the streets/houses to re educate residents on what can and cannot be recycled. I have visited hundreds of households doing the same thing. More needs to be done. Gary I most certainly do think we should get a better settlement and I have requested it from all the Political groups running government over the past 8 years.
    This however moves away from the point. This is an ill thought our policy which has been changing every time I ask questions. Harrow residents should not be charged this additional garden charge, its disgraceful – please sign the petition

  13. Sarah

    Have there been any projections done on how many residents they expect to pay the £75?

    Perhaps they don’t really want to do the brown bin collections at all, otherwise surely they’d be able to get twice the sign-ups by charging half the price?

  14. Jivan Patel

    This idea of garden waste disposal either by collection by council fortnightly at an additional charge of £75 or by taking it to the waste dumping place by residents or by burning it at the back of their gardens, proposed by harrow councilors, to me seems to be ill thought out proposals.
    Additional £75 for possible 10 collections in summer months (when mostly grass trims and garden waste) means £7,50 per collection is grossly overcharging the residence.
    For those who do not have a means to carry the waste to the dumping point will have a real problem or do the councillors think that they should use the public transport, i.e bus or underground tubes services to carry the brown bins.
    Burning the garden waste at the back of their garden means smoky, smelly bonfires over the week-ends, not only polluting the air,but increasing the risk of fires and burning accidents.
    I will definitely sign the petition and ask the council to rethink of the additional charges imposed on to the residents.

  15. Michael Devlin

    This is not a party issue as Conservative government made huge cut to Councils. So Labour council has to find way of dealing with short fall of cash caused by Conservative government.
    I do not think recycling is the right choice but please stop making this a party issue as both are guilty.

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