Rotherham bin charge row develops as figures confirm poor communities avoid new payments
A political row has broken out over Rotherham’s new paid-for waste collection service after it emerged the take up rate in the town’s most deprived wards is substantially lower than more advantaged communities.
Figures obtained by campaigner Michael Sylvester show what he calls “a vast gulf” between numbers of households paying to have garden waste removed, even when figures have been adjusted to take into account varying housing types between different areas.
Mr Sylvester said he believes the £39 a year charge to have garden waste removed would “drive inequality” between different districts in the borough.
But the council has responded robustly, saying it had focused on protecting the vulnerable in the face of £200m austerity cuts and challenged anyone disputing the policy to find another source for the money spent on green waste collections.
Mr Sylvester said the flat rate charge did not take into account residents’ ability to pay and added: “The figures I’ve received support the argument that the bin tax brought in by Labour is a barrier for poorer households in removing their garden waste.
“The £39 charge may not sound much to many but I’ve met households in Dalton and East Herringthorpe on Universal Credit where this is not far off a fortnight’s food budget.
His figures show a take up rate of 55 per cent for the green waste scheme in Sitwell, compared to 15 per cent in Rotherham East.
“These figures follow a similar pattern if you take into account the number of flats and terrace houses in each ward with Sitwell then having a 63.2% sign up rate against 27.5% for Rotherham East” he said.
“The big question is what will happen to the garden waste from the many homes in deprived neighbourhoods not signing up for the bin tax? These are the areas with least access to private transport to take their rubbish to tips so will it be more unkempt gardens?
“It is my fear that the bin tax will be one more factor driving inequality across the town and would again urge the council to offer a reduced rate on the bin tax like they do on large item collections for Rothercard holders and change the unfair funding formula for the area housing budgets that means funds for community skips on council estates in more deprived areas are more thinly spread”.
However, Coun Emma Hoddinott, the Cabinet member for waste, said cuts of £200m had left councillors making “difficult decisions, whilst protecting investment in social care services used by the most vulnerable children and their families.
“We resisted introducing garden waste charges until most of the country had already brought them in but the first phase has been successful, with nearly four in ten households now signed up.
“The changes have meant recycling rates for plastics, paper and card have already increased substantially. Anyone advocating that garden waste charges are removed or subsidised for some households would need to explain where the money to pay for it was coming from, what other services would be cut, or who would need to pay more.”