Aug 16 2015

Comment: Harrow Council’s £75 Garden Bin Tax

20150816_garden_wasteBins. There’s very little which will upset the fine residents of Harrow more than somebody missing with their bin collection. Hell hath no fury, and all that. And yet messing with bins is exactly what Harrow’s Labour administration is planning to do.

Cast your mind back 35 years. You’d have paper sacks, in a bin holder, by your back door. Once a week, without fail, the local bin men would turn up, pop round to the back of your house, and take the rubbish away, leaving a couple of replacement bags for you. If you wanted to put your potato peelings in the bin, you could.

And every December, they’d knock on the door to play the usual tradition of wishing you a Merry Christmas and to pick up their Christmas Box (or rather, a fiver, which my dad would casually slip them, as well as the postman, the milkman and the paper-boy). Didn’t sound much, but the difference between tipping that fiver or not made the difference as to whether you back gate got shut, whether they’d pick up anything they dropped, and whether they’d ‘remember’ to leave enough new bin bags. But it didn’t matter whether you tipped or not: the bins still got emptied, any pensioners would get a quick check to see they were okay, and apart from the occasional hiccup, it all worked.

20150816_slop_bucketNow, look where we are today. You bin has to be within the stipulated 3mm of the boundary of your property, the bin lid firmly closed, it mustn’t be too heavy (although the council has never managed to answer what ‘too heavy’ means when asked), and woe betide you of you so much as put a single wrong item in the wrong coloured – and when your bin doesn’t collected because a passer-by, rather than drop their empty beer can on the street one, just once, dumps it in the nearest bin – which happens to be your brown one, half filled with rotting food – it’s suddenly YOUR fault that the bin is ‘contaminated’ and not taken.Since when did the council stop being our servant, and start being our master?

But times change, regardless of whether you subscribe to the ‘global warming’ theory, which may, or may not, be related to cows farting in the mid-west of the USA, and recycling does – or should – make good sense. After all, you’re just making a token effort to sort out most of your rubbish, and it’s shouldn’t be an issue; after all, your bins still get emptied, right?

Well, not for much longer.

We’ve written before about the Brown Bin Tax of £75 a year to get your garden waste taken away. But it raises so many questions, to which the council has so few answers, it remains unworkable. For example:

Can you put apples in your food-waste bin, or must they go into the chargeable brown bin? The only possible answer is, ‘it depends’ – did you buy them from Tesco, and not eat them? Then it’s food-waste. Did they drop off your neighbour’s tree into your garden? Then it’s garden waste, and you need a £75 bin.

20150816_flytipResidents in Harrow pay one of the highest rates of Council Tax in London, having seen almost 2% increases in both of the last two years alone. Adding the £75 Garden Bin Tax is equivalent to a 5% increase in Council Tax (for a Band D property, currently £1529.36). If Labour want to bring in a 2% increase in 2016/17 – and that’s likely, of course – your council tax will effectively be 7% higher. Cllr Bill Stoodley, of Independent Labour Group fame – suggested that, when he was still part of the Labour group, pre-split – that the council hold a referendum of residents to see if they wanted an increase of greater than 2%. He got out-voted by his colleagues, and the Labour group chose a 1.99% increase: as high as they could possibly get away with.

“But this huge cost saving will get us 30 more social workers!” you cry. Well, it won’t, because there is no cost saving. And if you through you’d been promised 30 new social workers, read again. “By introducing a small charge we can continue to collect the garden waste for those who need it, but also save the Council nearly £2m annually. This is the equivalent of over 30 social workers or repairing 57,000 potholes.” says Cllr Graham Henson. See it? “Equivalent of,” not “We will provide.”

So now, we’re in this right old pickle. Despite lofty promises of ‘saving money’ – an article for another day, unfortunately – the sums don’t stack up. With only about 20% of residents expected to stump up the £75 tax, the council will – at least for an interim of 6-7 months – need to collect both the blue (recycling) waste, the green (traditional household waste), the brown (garden waste) and the black (food waste). Only in April 2016 will the ‘free’ (huh!) brown bin collection cease. So how are they funding the 80,000-odd black bins? The 80,000-odd kitchen slop buckets? The new vehicles to take food waste? Don’t forget, these new food-waste bins won’t have wheels either, so they’ll have to be lifted – both by you, and by the council workers. If full, your kitchen slop bucket will weigh upto 7kg (15llbs), your outside bin will weigh upto 23kg (50llbs, or three and a half stone). Where does Gary and his union boys stand on that? With a bad back, probably…

20150816_traffic_queueAnd if you’re lucky enough to have a car, you’ll be able to trek down the the Forward Drive dump every weekend in the summer, with a car full of cut grass and bramble trimmings. Already, you can expect a 20 minute wait at 8.30 on a Sunday: imagine it at the height of spring, when everyone’s pruning the roses, or the midst of autumn, when leaves blow off the council-maintained trees into your garden. We can fully expect Simon Ovens’ boys in blue to get down there to control traffic, otherwise it’ll be backing up into Wealdstone town centre. Not got a car? Well, don’t worry – there’s a nice quiet alley way somewhere nearby, and you can dump your (completely untraceable) bags of grass cuttings there one night. Because that’s what will happen. And the cost of clearing flytips will soar.

We call this progress. We call this civilisation.We call this ‘being green’ and ‘saving the environment.’ You’re poking a wasps nest this time, Dave. And it’s looking like residents aren’t the only ones going to get stung.

If you’re outraged by this bin charge, by the disdain shown by the council for those who fund it, and by the deteroiration it’ll cause to the place you live or work, join 4000 other people and sign this petition against the charge.


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  1. Elizabeth Ruffell

    I live on a pension. How am I supposed to pay an extra £75 to have a bin emptied?

  2. Someonewhocares

    Fair comment, and signing this Petition is a great idea – but when exactly did the Council ever take note of any such Petitions for residents? This is a serious, not rhetorical, question: They have a long record of simply ignoring Petitions they don’t like, even when and I can not personally recall any that have substantially changed any Council policies either.

  3. Concerned Harrovian

    I signed the original petition. Do I need to sign again or is it the same petition?

    1. iharrow.com

      Its the same one. Whilst I’d like to suggest that you sign again, I’ll exhibit some ethics, and refrain from doing so…

  4. PSHE at Lesley de Meza Ltd.

    I followed your link to the petition but can’t find a place/link to ‘sign’ it. Will it not let me sign because I signed it way back when it first appeared?

  5. Cllr Joel Davidson

    Terrible policy copied from Brent

  6. Harrow Cynic

    Don’t blame the Council. Blame Osborne for starving local authorities of money, so that he can give tax hand-outs to the rich. Don’t sign this petition. The Council has to balance the books.

  7. Mike N

    Here we go again………..the reason that central government has had to make all these tough decision is because under the last labour government we were broke !….no money left ! Borrowed beyond our means ! Yes before you go on about the bankers, I know they were also to blame for the mess we have found ourselves in. We had to tighten in our belt so that we can once again be in the black and not in the red. You only have to look at the neighbouring borough of Hillingdon to see that a council area can prosper if it has the right leadership, which sadly Harrow has not.

    1. Someonewhocares

      Only partly true – as again Hillingdon has the advantage of ‘preferential’ treatment due to LHR effects.

  8. Susan Hall

    Yes Harrow Cynic, the Council does have to balance the books but how they do it is up to the Administration, the Labour administration. We taxpayers expect our money to be spent wisely, not on expensive consultants while our lower paid staff are sent packing. The lower paid staff are generally those who do the most for us residents. Labour always choose to lose those staff members and tax us as much as they can. The garden tax is a tax too far as many of our residents are concerned. £75 may not be much to you Harrow Cynic but it is to a lot of people and I therefore urge Harrow residents to sign the petition and let this Labour administration in Harrow know that they are not happy with it at all.

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