To charge or not to charge - that is the question

To charge for green waste collections - or not charge for green waste collections – that seems to be the unanswered question bounced back and forth between four authorities including Wealden District Council.

Last week the Sussex Express revealed that three contractors, Sita, Biffa and Kier, are trying to win the bid to take on the private contract for waste collection services put forward by the Joint Waste Committee set up by Wealden and Rother district councils; and Hastings and Eastbourne borough councils. Biffa is £1.2 billion in debt.

Green waste (GW) collections would be included in the final contract and Wealden’s Cabinet has agreed to ‘retain a free GW collection service, with a preference for a free opt-in service (similar to that provided by Eastbourne)’.

But this view on GW does not complement the other authorities on the Joint Waste Committee. All four authorities set out their ‘Absolutes and Preferences’ in a document for the Joint Waste Contract – seen by the Express.

In the document, Wealden wanted to ‘achieve an overall saving of £500,000 excluding any charging opportunities for GW. That if GW is to continue to be collected then a charge should not be applied’.

But the verdict from Eastbourne was: “We cannot accept charging for green waste in the base specification. We believe the base case should be ‘no charge’ for the collection of green waste.

“However we understand the need to allow the menu of options to include charging, and we can confirm we are happy with the suggestion of £25 per annum, for the collection of green waste.”

Hastings ‘absolutely expect to continue to charge for green waste collections’. Rother set out not charging as a ‘preference’ rather than an ‘absolute’.

A ‘Communications Strategy’ report for the Joint Waste Committee (June 29) said: “It is key that each partner shares the same common messages to avoid any confusion.”

The same document suggests the public ‘are unlikely to absorb any more than two or three key messages’ about the waste collection plans – namely: When are my bin days? What do my bins look like? And – What do we put in them?