CLAIMS from a Conservative Councillor that a decision made by Cheshire West and Chester Council to increase green bin waste charges was ‘unlawful’, have been rubbished by the authority.

A 25 per cent increase to the fortnightly opt-in green bin waste collection service was announced on January 4 by the Labour-led council, raising it to £50, and starting from four days later.

According to Farndon ward Cllr Adrian Waddelove (Con) the council's budget for this financial year to March 31 was passed with a specific policy written into the paperwork that there would be no rise before this date.

Cllr Waddelove had campaigned against what he called “the green bin tax” ahead of last year’s local elections.

He said: “Despite requests to senior managers to clarify the legal basis for the tax increase I believe that CWaC's Labour leadership was determined to introduce it before collections restart on February 26 without the proper lawful process being followed.

Cllr Waddelove believes Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Transport, Councillor Karen Shore (Lab), needed to ask the council at its last formal meeting in December to vote to approve plans for the rise.

He added: “It would seem that to avoid the inevitable bad publicity and public backlash this higher than inflationary rise was announced during the Christmas period when most people were taking a break from the concerns of everyday life.

Chester and District Standard: Cllr Adrian WaddeloveCllr Adrian Waddelove (Image: Cheshire West and Chester Council)

“The party’s (Labour) budget declaration that the green bin charge would be ‘frozen in 2023-24 in recognition of current cost of living pressures on households’ - on page 125 in Appendix D - was supported by 21 of the present Labour councillors but not one of them appears to have any qualms about junking this commitment they gave to voters only weeks before the local elections.

“Given all the shortcomings in this shoddy and improper decision-making process, I don’t think it is unreasonable for me on behalf of local people to suggest that Councillor Shore should do the honourable thing and resign from the cabinet as the portfolio holder? And the residents who have paid the unlawful tax rise to date sent a letter of apology?

“This would demonstrate that, although the sum of money for each individual is small, CWaC's Councillors and officers are committed to acting with honesty and integrity on all matters at all times, especially when dealing with public money”.

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But the council has refuted Cllr Waddelove’s claims, pointing to policy guidance.

A CWaC spokesperson said: “Local authorities can charge for collecting certain types of household waste, including garden waste, as specified in Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012.

“Waste collection authorities must start collecting garden waste according to new rules by March 31, 2026, but they can still charge for this service. Garden waste collection is only mandatory after a resident requests it and pays any associated fee.

“The principle of charging for garden waste collections was decided by the Council on 27 July 2021, as part of the Council’s Waste Management Strategy.”

On 21 November 2023, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Response on Consistency in Household and Business Recycling in England, stated: “Local authorities will be required to provide a garden waste collection service where it is requested but, as is currently the case, they can continue to choose to charge for this service. Householders will be able to make their own decision about whether they wish to use this optional service or make other arrangements.”

The CWaC spokesperson added: “This Council has therefore always acted in accordance with DEFRA guidance. Since its introduction in 2022, the Council’s charge has only sought to recover the costs of providing the service in line with the guidance and legislation.

“The cost for subscribers did not increase last year despite inflationary pressures. The subscription charge for 2024 is going up due to the rising costs of delivering the service that the Council has experienced since the charge was set two years ago.

“This includes inflation in the cost of fuel, machinery, and other resources. The cost increase will therefore continue to be used to cover the costs of the Garden Waste collection service.

“Garden waste forms part of the Council’s fees and charges and therefore part of the Council’s Finance and Contract Procedural Rules.

“There is no policy change requiring approval in that the Council’s standing policies require it to seek to recover the full cost of discretionary charged for services from those who use that service where possible. This was decided at the Cabinet meeting of 9 February 2022 and full Council meeting on 17 February 2022.

“Uplifting such charges over time to reflect cost inflation is standard practice. Not increasing these charges would have meant residents who don’t have gardens or opt not to use the Garden Waste service would be subsidising the costs for those who did.

“Garden waste charges have always been set at the start of each calendar year as the service begins in late February, before the start of the financial year in April. The cost of the 2024 service was confirmed in early January and the subscription window opened on January 8 to give residents time to make their decision before collections start from February 26.”

Chester and District Standard: Cllr Karen ShoreCllr Karen Shore (Image: Cheshire West and Chester Council)

Cabinet member Cllr Shore also hit back at the claims and pointed to the choices made by national government contributing to council charge rises.

She said: "Cheshire West and local authorities of all political stripes across the country have introduced garden waste charges long before Cllr Waddlelove’s time as a councillor.

“The increase to the charge in Cheshire West reflects cost price inflation and does not require a new decision, as any councillor with an understanding of governance and decision-making would know.

"Thanks to his party’s trashing of the economy whilst in Government, the cost of everything has increased including mortgages, rent, energy and food.

“After 14 years of austerity and cuts to council budgets, with over half a billion pounds taken from Cheshire West alone, there are no easy answers. Council Tax increases alone do not bridge the gap, and Cheshire West Labour will continue to make decisions which protect the most vulnerable."

"Cllr Waddlelove knows who is responsible for underfunding councils, hospitals, schools and the other public services we all rely on - his Tory Government. Instead of trying to shift the blame, he should look closer to home.”