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Image Dan Phelps / @DaddyDan8

Birmingham City Council have found themselves in a bit of a fix as bags of green waste pile up in streets across the city following the introduction of the new charge for collection of garden waste earlier this year.

With the new garden waste collection charge, residents are expected to pay £35 a year to opt in to the service, as the council seeks to cut around £120 million from their budget, despite savings of £375 million already having been made since 2011.

Poor uptake

However, the uptake for the new scheme has been much lower than expected, with many refusing to pay the extra charge.

Around 7.5% of households have taken up the scheme across Northfield District, slightly higher than the average uptake across the city (6.5%). The highest percentage has been in Northfield (9.3%) and Weoley (9.2%). Just 5.3% of Kings Norton ward households have purchased the scheme, and the uptake in Longbridge ward, which includes Frankley and Rednal, has been just 6%.

Dumped

Residents have complained of numerous bags, not belonging to them, being left outside their homes – both green garden waste bags and black bags which refuse collectors have labelled as containing green waste. And, despite being reported as fly-tipping, in many cases the bags remain.

Dan Phelps tweeted about the above bags which had been on Lickey Road for several weeks. They have since been cleared by the council.

Tories slam “Unfair Garden Tax”

Birmingham Conservatives have hit out at the Labour led council, highly critical of what they have dubbed as “garden tax”.

In a survey carried out by Conservative parliamentary candidate for Northfield Rachel Maclean, 89% of respondents said they were against the charge and 62% said that they had not heard of the ‘Early Bird Discount’ for signing up to the scheme.

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Conservative candidate Rachel Maclean

Rachel Maclean had already slammed the council for the introduction of the “unfair” charge on green waste collection, posting a gallery of photos of dumped green waste taken across the constituency on her website.

Rachel Maclean said: ““Our survey results are sample of the local frustration we have found campaigning throughout Northfield at this stealth tax. Hardworking residents already pay council tax for services and shouldn’t be hit with an under the table charge like this one.

“I am now calling on Labour-led Birmingham City Council to wake up, smell the coffee and bin the garden tax. The Conservatives have already pledged to get rid of the charge if returned to run Birmingham in May.”

MP angry at Tory “hypocrisy”

In reaction, Northfield MP Richard Burden blogged about the green garden waste problem, saying: “I’ll continue to take these issues up with the Council. I am not a Councillor and I sometimes disagree with some of the decisions local councils make.  But I think all parties should be straight with voters about why Birmingham City Council decided to change the free green waste system.”

Mr Burden blames central government cuts for the problem, saying:  “The Conservative-led Government will have forced cuts of over £800 million to be made in Birmingham City Council’s budget by 2018. Over £200 million of cuts are needed over the next year. This year we are losing £145 for every household in our city, compared to an average cut of £71 in other parts of the country. The fact is that Birmingham is being short-changed.”

And Mr Burden recognises that difficult spending decisions have to be made at a local level. Garden waste collection is not a statutory service and Mr Burden said: “So the Council can’t avoid making difficult decisions. Do they cut green waste collections or cut care for the elderly, services for vulnerable children or something else? Whether you agree with the decision to charge for green waste collection or not, those kinds of decisions will not go away.”

“That’s why I get so angry about the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Conservatives who complain about green waste charges at the same time as cheering on the Government which has put Birmingham in this position.” he added.

Solutions?

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Rachel Maclean website

So, how will the council handle the bags of garden waste amassing in our streets? Some have been removed since being reported as fly tipping but will residents not paying for the scheme continue to leave theirs in the street and expect the council to clear them away?

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, said: “There does of course come a point when we will need to clear any garden waste that no resident is taking responsibility for. However, in doing so we must be mindful that people are now paying for the collection of garden waste.

“If we routinely and regularly clear any garden waste on the streets, it will rightly infuriate paying customers and undermine the decisions the City Council took last year, and create budget pressures which can only be met by cuts elsewhere. It would also be encouraging a continuation of people putting out garden waste outside of the new service.”

And Cllr McKay said that the situation would be monitored closely: “We are in a transition period, as we move from a free, unlimited service to a chargeable one. The council has made every reasonable effort to get that message out there, and the success of that work is demonstrated by the fact we are selling hundreds of units of the new service each working day at the moment.”

And Longbridge Councillor Ian Cruise highlighted the need to promote composting as a solution, tweeting that Frankley Parish Council have set a good example, promoting composting and selling over 100 compost bins.

Useful links, advice and further reading:

Sign up to the Green Waste scheme or get advice – Birmingham City Council

Report Fly Tipping – Birmingham City Council

Information and advice on composting – Birmingham City Council

Rachel fights unfair Green Tax – Rachel Maclean

Green Waste Collection – Local People Deserve Better than Double Talk – Richard Burden MP

 

30 COMMENTS

  1. Is this really saving money when the ‘fly tipped’ waste has to be collected anyway?
    Do you think that an alternative way of saving money would be to refit Northfield swimming baths and gym instead of building another?

  2. This is no different to neighbouring Worcestershire councils who charge residents for green waste collections.

    At the end of the day, there will always be a transition period and some people may genuinely leave green waste out assuming it would be collected like in the past. If people continue to do so then they are fly tipping and should be dealt with accordingly.
    If the waste is going to be continually cleared up then Birmingham should refund all those who have paid for the service.

  3. my parents have paid for the service and put there bin out every 2 weeks and not once has it been emptied we have to phone the council up every time to come n collect it not only is it a waste of money its costing them money in phone calls I think they should scrap the schem its causing to much hassel

  4. Please make sure the reporting is no biased towards Tory ‘Righteousness’! It is rather too far down the page that reality steps into this article, pointing out that it is the TORY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CUTS THAT NECESSITATE THESE IDIOTIC CHARGES, and not primarily our labour-led Birmingham council who are the fall guys!

  5. I am by tradition a Conservative supporter but am fed up of all the criticism of Birmingham Council’s policy on green waste. We all received plenty of notice of the change, the wheelie bins are much better than bags and the annual cost only equates to a few drinks, packets of cigarettes or monthly mobile phone contracts. Many residents just think they can dump anything outside their house and eventually it will be collected.

    • Roy,
      it isn’t about simply ‘being obedient’ but having your views represented in a democracy and therefore having a sense of responsibility for the way policies operate.
      Most people are not ‘scroungers’ or ‘layabouts’ but sometimes behave well, sometimes less well, and yes, sometimes very badly.
      Most of us are somewhere in between.
      Your saying ‘many’ gives the impression only the select few, —like yourself I suppose……? are ‘perfect’.
      Btw, you may well be fed up with ‘all the criticism’ of our labour council, and well you should be. It is your Tory lot at central government who are decimating our communities in less and more ‘lethal’ ways, who are indeed ‘responsible’.
      Smoke that in your pipe!

      • Hi Sas, I can see it here on this page now, but it does not appear on the last two e mails I received though other posts do. I have noticed this before when I have posted. Sometimes the posts appear, sometimes not…

  6. my comments are
    1. clearly the 90% + of peeps do not want to pay for green waste collection . the council is supposed to be a democratic elected body. the people have spoken now manage it.
    2.Central government are elected to govern whether tory or labour and our council has to follow there dictates.
    3. So BCC has to cut but where the axe falls is there decision and this decision is clearly not what people want
    END OF …..BCC act now and rectify.

  7. *OPINION*

    I Have both a front and back garden, Ive had to buy a green bin, my neghbours 3 doors down have slabbed both their front and back and becasuse of that they dont have to.
    My Sisister has a garden and has had to buy one, my mate on the other hand lives in a flat so he is fine and dandy.
    Am I going to sit here and moan Im having to now pay £33 (discount for this year) NO.
    I dont have a huge income and have had to save for that paltry amount to pay.
    But ive done it out of social repsonsibilty.
    I dont want to dump it on my doorstep or someone elses for that matter and see it piling up in MY street for friends and visiting relatives to see. I dont drive so cant take it to the tip,
    There was plenty of notice it was going to stop, in the Papers, radio, ITV Central News and BBC Midlands Today. So I find it extremely difficult for anyone to say they diidnt know.
    The Council stopped providing black sacks 15 months ago and some people still havent cottoned onto this fact.
    WE can sit and moan and say this is what we pay our council tax for, but it was a FREE service to begin with, can someone remind when we last had a Council tax raise in Birmingham ?.
    We have green waste piling up around our city, that i understand.
    But it is now attracting fly tipping of other rubbish. The local Conservative Candidate Rachel Maclean is posting pictures of fly tipping across my area of Kings Norton.
    items alongside green waste include old clothes wash baskets, general houshold waste and even a washing up bowl !. ( quick tip you can fit a washing up bowl in a black bag Rachel ive tried it this morning :) )
    There is a fine line between those that cant afford this service and those that just feel free to throw out what they feel like and pass it on as someone elses problem.
    It will take time to settle down as a system,

  8. Whilst I wish the garden waste charge wasn’t introduced after listening to the reasons why from the local Labour counsellor (Ian Cruise) I can understand why they have been introduced. But I do think the whole process should have been handled better and I imagine BCC would now agree with that given the public outcry over this.

    The issues at the tip don’t help as they used to struggle with workload before but this has now increased dramatically with rumours of several hours spent in queues and also that fights broke out at the weekend at Lifford Lane. I have also heard of several instances of the wheelie bins not being collected for 6 weeks and I believe that the bins are out of stock and not available until later in the year. This has only increased the dumping of rubbish on streets and I have heard of bags being dumped by Bartley Green Reservoir which damages the area we all live in.

    It would be nice to think we live in an ideal world of model citizens but that’s not the case and we won’t fully eradicate this problem. BCC just need to work a bit harder to help embed the changes. I know they will have budgeted for the savings to happen immediately but maybe they should reforecast these for maybe 2/3 years down the line whilst we all adapt to this change to our waste collection.

    • Is Phil Walkling still alive? (labour councillor, B’m) Or has he retired these last few years? His apparition never appears at local Neighbourhood Meetings with the police…?

      What does he do all day?

      No one ever see him doing any work round here?

  9. *OPINION*
    I don’t think whether the Tories love it or not is down to being another obedient citizen.
    I’ve voted for all 3 main parties over the years, but have always held the same view of moral and social responsibility and conscience.
    As I said above, there will be those that genuinely can’t afford the £35 (from next year). But for the majority of people, when it comes downs to brass tacks it works out at less than 70p a week over the year.
    The majority of law abiding dog owners clean up after their dogs, as do I.
    What would suddenly happen if I thought ‘ I pay council tax for street cleaners’ I’ll stop buying dog bags, picking it up, taking it home and leave it for someone to clean it up as I pay for this ‘service’.
    I own a dog, the dog produces waste, I own a garden, the garden produces waste,
    Having a social responsibility I clean up after my dog.
    Having a garden I (reluctantly) now pay for my garden waste that it produces to be taken away…

  10. Those who automatically defer to Authority are sad human beings. That is exactly the Tory template. The majority are not expected to question, just obey, and the rich and wealthy laud it over the rest of us.
    It is not intelligent or open minded politics at all, and the height of, in face ‘ IRRESPONSIBLITY’ and certainly total lack of ‘social conscience’ in most of them.
    Since you do not seem to have heard, a vast number of the population are not only out of work but been swindled of their rightful social security payments also. As a I say ‘height of irresponsibility’.
    So where do you suppose someone who has had their social security snatched by some jumped up jobcentre Nazi is going to find this 70 p.? Do you realise that 70p is a lot for some people?
    Further, you are very fortunate to have home, garden and dog to be righteous about. think yourself lucky. I hope you are generous to those who are struggling even to find a home?
    Anyone who votes Tory is not worth my time of day.
    Our present cabinet in government should face charges of treason to their own people. IDS first. McVile second. Cameron et al third.

  11. [Quote} I used to drive the refuse collection vehicle in this area and my grandparents lived in Bond Street for over 50 years, the frustration from the public is felt throughout the workforce and i believe the service will continue to deteriorate with the continued and ever increasing deployment of agency staff, this currently runs in the region of 70% of the workforce. They receive very little training and in my view are not made aware of what is expected of them or the quality of service which should be provided, along with this because of an ever changing crew residents who require assistance are often overlooked as new crew members are simply not aware of this. Unlike others i do care about the job i do despite being ground down with many changes in working conditions and am often told by residents they wished the crew i was in charge of was still in the area. I have experience also of the wheelie bin system as ive taken part in trials in the Selly Oak area which though densely populated with students is a similar lay out to Stirchley and conclude that many of the concerns raised have in fact materialised, bins are still often overflowing, gardens are not big enough to house the bins, traffic congestion has increased dramatically leading to daily verbal and threatened physical abuse along with many other negatives. As a workforce despite often having to face the wrath of the public we have no input on decisions made by our employer but it saddens me as a proud Brummie our city has been allowed to degenerate into such a shocking state .[Quote]
    A comment taken from a local website, or should i say the coal face. It would appear that problems caused by the introduction of wheelie bins is not unique to green waste bins. Not everyone uses £35 worth of green bin…i dont have grass, but i do cut the shrubs back a couple of times a year and fill about 3 or 4 bags each time…is that worth £35…i think not.
    It highlights the problem with the council as a whole…they just dont care about the residents of Birmingham. They dont listen to anyone…be that green waste, wheelie bins, traffic cameras, keeping local swimming baths open…..thats just the start really. Its so disheartening for the average person who just wants to live in a clean city with reasonable services. I dont care about the posh new library in town…i just want an ordinary one near…same with the baths…i dont want to traipse all the way to Longbridge or somewhere…just up the road is fine, and thats the same for the kids. We havent all got money to go on a bus to swim and then probably find the prices have gone up to pay for it.
    This council should get a grip of its wastefullness before making us pay for it.

  12. The reality is that the council is in a very bad financial position. Council tax rises have been restricted by central government and the council has to find savings somewhere if it cannot increase its income. The council has also been very badly affected by equal pay claims. My view is that people do not have enough knowledge of public finance and so cannot fully appreciate the challenges.

    • I dont doubt the council is in a very bad financial position, but they could put the council tax up by as much as they like, if they had the courage of their conviction…. of course they didnt have the bottle, because it would of triggered a referendum.
      I certainly dont pretend to have enough knowledge of public finance….but i can see when the council is wasting mine, yours and every other council tax payers money.

  13. this is my opinion;

    why is it when ever the council tries to sell the idea that we need to make cuts somewhere….such as now charging for green waste collection, they say if we do not we will have to make cuts in other areas such as providing care for the elderly/disabled and children services!!! this angers me so much as the council has already made cuts in these areas!!

    the council have spent years wasting money left right and centre…..for example the equal payments for male-female workers! the council was informed over 10 years ago that they need to equalise wages, but they chose to ignor this. instead now they are having to pay out 1000’s of ponds in back pay to each woker affected. i know of 3 workers each recieving a payment of almost £100,000.00 each!! this is astonishing to say the least. if the council had of acted in the first instance then they would not have to put aside millions for this purpose, and then to try and fight each individual claim through the courts which is only adding to the costs!!!
    then theres the matter of the councellors/MP’s wages and their expences claims!!! iam sorry that is astonishing in its self.. MP’S and other senior officials should NOT be entitled to claim back their expences!! if anyone else was to apply for a job which required to to live in a city, well that is up to you if you move their or commute, you should not be able to claim expences for 2 homes!!!
    and the wages are enough to cover your travelling costs. just the other week cammeron visited birmingham, he was driving his own jag, police and security closed of a street so he could fill this jag up with petrol at a local garage!!! i am sure as he was in birmingham on oficial buisness he would claim expences to run his jag!!! as well as the expences for all of his other cars with the other advisors and security!!!
    the main point for my ramblings are, shouldnt we be cutting/capping the spending from higher up the ladder rather than always attacking the smaller person!!
    i pay my council tax, i pay my income tax, i pay my car tax plus i pay tax on evrything i spend my money on…all of which ammounts to 100’s a month!!! surely i shouldnt have to pay tax for having a garden!!! rant over sorry :)

  14. *OPINION*

    Privileged, a few things I’d like to say,
    Firstly the reason I put ‘opinion’ at the top is that I’m a contributor to this site you can find me under ‘Meet the Team’. These are my personal views and not those of the site.
    I am lucky to have a house and garden, that is provided by Bham City Council.
    My limited income is provided by the state as for the last three years I have been sole carer for my father.
    I am acutely aware that 70p is a lot of money (you can stretch it surprisingly far). Even after 15 years of full time employment.
    I do not ‘work’ and ‘scrounge’ off the state for looking after a Cerebral Vascular Dementia sufferer whilst myself having had two lots of open heart surgery and suffering from arthritis.
    With the spare time I do have I volunteer at an elderly sheltered housing scheme with gardening and growing their own food.
    I sit on the local HLB for council tenants and champion rights for those that are under represented and challenge the Council and it’s contractors.
    I liaise with my local police team and report on meetings (you’ll find back issues here). I attend estate assessments with Councillors and Housing Officers to pick up on issues (you’ll find back issues here).
    I also run 4 Twitter accounts voluntarily for Housing tenants.
    I despise the current situation we are facing as a Council,
    As for anyone that votes Tory not worth your time of day ?.
    I feel I have to remain impartial as I write for this site, but I do hope you’ve got further time.
    Arron

  15. The point here is that this is a tax rise in disguise. Last year it was included in our taxes, now we pay for it extra.

    I would rather pay more tax than have a charging system. It would be less expensive all round.

  16. Got several thoughts on this:

    – Can’t believe the hypocrisy shown by politicians in search of of a photo-op. This is the sharp end of cuts caused by a reduction in money from central government – and those same politicians are well aware of this!.

    – Also can’t believe some people’s lack of responsibility. I’ll bet 99% of those dumping bags are able to take them to the tip but just can’t be bothered.

    – Some people must have very short memories. Green waste collections were only introduced 7/8 years ago – no green bags before then.

    Where I do think the council got it wrong is the level of pricing. I did my sums (like I’m sure most people have) and for the size of my garden its far cheaper to take the cut grass to the tip myself than pay the £35. If the cost were reduced to say £20 I’d pay up as it would be worth it, but for now its back to what I did 10 yrs ago – every 2/3 weeks cut the grass, fill up 2 of those green flexitubs (which I bought 10 years ago) and empty them at the tip. Pick the right time to go (weekday evening) and the queue is tiny.

    I do feel sorry for those who have no alternative – who can’t afford the charge and/or have no access to a vehicle – and can only suggest the council have a rethink and offer a ‘special circumstances’ discount on the £35.

  17. Publicity at the time of elections is noting new, so if there is a photo opportunity i’m sure they will all take it. Lets be honest, the council have put it on a plate for the opposition councillors.
    What i find absolutely hypocritical is the way the council and even the MP is trying to put the blame on the government. The issue surrounding green waste, wheelie bins, cuts and charges in bulk collections are completely avoidable, as are other cuts in services locally. If the cost of the new library in town at £189m was not enough, the council have spent another £1.2m on the new website for it. On top of the grant from government to introduce wheelie bins, the council are spending and even borrowing millions more.
    Wouldnt it be better to pay for local services first before spending millions on other schemes and ideas….especially when they dont even take our tax payer opinions into account.

  18. An item on the radio this morning suggests that binmen/ladies are being offered overtime to collect the green waste left out on the streets over the weekend. Now i’m not suggesting anyone with green waste puts it out…but then if they are collecting it….well….. ;)
    The council apparently wont confirm it but then they didnt deny it either.
    It looks like those who have been charged £35 have been skanked from where i’m sitting.

  19. I back the council on this charge for green waste. It may get people to compost themselves or save council a fortune in collections as people pay to have it collected. However they need decent bin men who care about their jobs instead of the idle lot they have. I am fed up of putting bags that dont belong to me in the car a taking go lifford lane as bin men cant be arsed to clear up bags that split open when they pile them at end of my drive. They now pile bags there from other homes on my road then dont collect as they believe it to be garden waste and warn me about tipping. I have now installed a camera to film these useless twerps and will be charging the council for tipping on my property. The scheme would work if binmen could.

  20. We all need to get the facts Birmingham is the second city with a large population so why have other cities had more money.

    I think we should all sign a mass petition and take it to number 10 because it is not fair that a city of this size with more needs than other cities should face these kind of life changing choices.

    How can the CONSERVATIVE candidate Rachel Maclean sit and have her photo took by these green waste bags when her Government are to blame shame on you.

    If she was wise she would get off her back side and get down to number 10 and say give Birmingham its fair share.

    As for fly tipping is it something new NO it is not its been in our streets and roads for years and it was FREE then.

    We need to get enforcement officers to do their job and catch these people name and shame them they are breaking the law.

    Travellers have been all over our wards in Northfield district they fly tip and i have seen first hand what they leave behind are they fined NO.

    Putting rubbish onto the roads and streets is not the answer the answer lies in number 10 with David Cameron and Eric Pickles.

    Sorry to be so blunt but those are the facts for all to see LEEDS- BRISTOL- HULL- SHEFFIELD- WATFORD the list goes on of all the cities that have had more money than BRUM the second city open your eyes people.

    If we lose things like the NHS- or are police force are cut even more the we can all moan and cry because without these two services we have failed as people of this city stand up and be counted. GIVE BIRMINGHAM ITS FAIR SHARE.

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