Issue - decisions

Garden Waste: Future Service Provision - (subject to the outcome of Scrutiny review following call-in)

27/09/2022 - Garden Waste: Future Service Provision

RESOLVED

 

KEY DECISION

 

It is recommended that the Executive:

a)    Agreed to harmonise the garden waste collection service across North Northamptonshire;

b)    Recover some of the costs of providing the service only from those who use it by charging a subscription fee for a service operating 12 months of the year (option C as set out in the report).

c)    Agreed that, from 1st April 2023, for North Northamptonshire, the annual subscription charge will be set at £40/bin/year (for the first bin) and £16.50 for the ad hoc sack collection service. Additional bins will be charged on a full cost recovery basis.

d)    Agreed to change the current subscription charge of £55/bin/year in East Northamptonshire to £40/bin/year (for the first bin) for all residents in East Northamptonshire from 1st December 2022. Additional bins will be charged on a full cost recovery basis.

e)    Agreed to apply a rebate of £20/bin/year for all existing garden waste customers in East Northamptonshire who renew their subscription (and only on their next renewal) after 1st December 2022, for a period of 12 months only,

f)     Agreed to provide subsidised home composting bins, as set out in the report, to promote home composting as an environmentally sustainable alternative to kerbside collections of garden waste.

g)    Delegated authority to the Executive Member for Highways, Travel and Assets in consultation with the Executive Director of Place and Economy to take any further decisions and / or actions required to conclude this process and implement any approved service updates. This will include, but not be limited to:

i.              finalising the Terms and Conditions of the service;

ii.             approving the updates to the Council’s Waste and Recycling Policy in relation to any changes to the garden waste service.

 

Reasons for Recommendations:

·         The recommended option will harmonise the garden waste service across all North Northamptonshire which will ensure parity across North Northamptonshire

·         Option C makes a contribution to the overall financial stability of the Council and to its Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP). It reduces the need to use budgets allocated for other services to fund a garden waste service.

·         The recommended course of action will reduce the Council’s carbon footprint by reducing the number of Heavy Goods Vehicles used for service delivery, assuming participation is at 40%.

·         Current staffing issues, which have been experienced by many local authorities across the country, have reduced the reliability of the garden waste service for some residents, particularly in the Wellingborough area. Reducing the number of crews required to deliver the service reduces the number of staff members required and thus reduces the risk of disruption caused by staff vacancies and absences.

·         A subscription service provides residents who need to dispose of garden waste with the choice of whether they wish to use, and pay towards, an opt-in service or whether they wish to use another legitimate disposal route, such as home composting or visiting the Council’s Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs). The tax contribution from those who do not need the service, such as those without a garden, would be reduced considerably by covering most of the operating costs through the subscription charge. This is considered a more equitable method to fund this optional service.

·         The option to use the compostable sacks service provides residents with the choice to have their garden waste collected on an ad hoc basis for a lower price. This seeks to provide an alternative for those with smaller gardens or who are not in a position to subscribe for the 12-month, fortnightly service.

·         Home composting is an environmentally sustainable alternative to kerbside collection of garden waste, which the Council wishes to encourage and promote. The subsidised offer for home composting bins seeks to encourage this environmental practice.

·         The rebate of £20/bin/year for existing garden waste customers in East Northamptonshire who renew after 1st December 2022 acknowledges the disparity that has existed since Vesting Day in the way in which the garden waste service is funded. It also seeks to retain their custom during the period of transition to the new service.

·         The charge for the first bin has been set below the cost recovery threshold in an effort to make it more affordable for residents, particularly in light of the current cost of living pressures. For additional bins, it is not considered appropriate that the cost of providing these bins is met from general taxation and therefore they will be charged on a full cost recovery basis.

 

Alternative Options Considered – to fully inform the decision on the future of the garden waste service in North Northamptonshire, an analysis of service delivery options has been conducted by an officer working group to identify impacts and benefits for each of the alternative options.

The option to retain the service under the current legacy arrangements was considered, which would continue the situation with different areas receiving different services. The Council had received significant feedback from residents living in the area of East Northamptonshire, who were only able to access the subscription service, whilst other residents in North Northamptonshire had access to a service which did not require a subscription payment. Residents expressed their expectation that parity for chargeable services was one early benefit to them of the recent formation of the new Council. Delaying the harmonisation of the service across North Northamptonshire would not resolve the concerns raised by residents in the area of East Northamptonshire and has therefore been dismissed.

 

Providing a universal service funded by general taxation has been considered and forms part of the analysis later in this report. It has been rejected on the basis that it does not support the Council’s MTFP and requires all taxpayers to contribute towards its operating costs, even if they do not require or use the service. Delaying the implementation of a subscription-based service beyond the recommended date would delay the financial contributions to the MTFP, which are required as a contribution towards balancing the Council’s budget in 2023/24 and beyond.

 

It would be possible to continue charging residents in East Northamptonshire £55/bin/year until 1st April 2023 and offer no rebate. This option has been discounted as it further exacerbates the disparity in the current garden waste services operating across North Northamptonshire and would likely lead to existing customers delaying their renewal until 1st April 2023, which could have further operational and financial implications for the Council. The disparity between those residents located in East Northamptonshire and other North Northamptonshire residents exists due to local government reform. The Council notes that East Northamptonshire residents have paid for a service that other residents have not and therefore to address this unfairness, the rebate of £20 seeks to reduce this disparity.  The £20 has been determined by the new subscription rate of £40 less the current rate of £55 plus a small financial sum to acknowledge the disparity.

 

The subscription charge could be set at various levels to reflect the Council’s approach to funding the service. A higher subscription rate would reduce the financial burden on the Council and require individual residents to pay more for the service if they choose to subscribe. The recommended level of subscription charge reflects the Council’s objective to recover most of the operating costs from those who use the service whilst being mindful of the current economic conditions putting pressure on households.

 

Delivering the service via a third-party commercial operator has been considered, but rejected, as it does not align with the Council’s current delivery model, whereby waste services are delivered by in-house teams in three of the four operational areas.

 

It would be possible to reduce garden waste collections to a monthly service. This option has been discounted for operational reasons and because it would be unpopular with residents given recycling and general waste are both collected once a fortnight. A garden waste bin left for 4 weeks becomes compacted, begins to rot (and smell) and produces liquid. This leads to bins that are very heavy and often overweight, which either become unsafe to manoeuvre (for residents and employees), or they break when lifted on the vehicle. The consultation indicated that 10% of properties expect to need two bins under a fortnightly collection service. This is expected to rise significantly with a 4-weekly service. Not all properties will have space for an additional garden waste bin and there is an additional capital cost in providing additional bins to those that request them.