Conservative association criticised for false brown bin tweets

PUBLISHED: 13:51 15 March 2018

North Hertfordshire District Council has introduced a £40 opt-in annual charge for garden waste collection from residents' brown bins. Picture: Danny Loo

North Hertfordshire District Council has introduced a £40 opt-in annual charge for garden waste collection from residents' brown bins. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A Conservative association has been criticised for falsely claiming it is possible to pay North Herts’ new brown bin charge by instalments.

The Letchworth-based North East Herts Conservative Association first made the claim in a series of tweets on Friday – and stands by it even after North Herts District Council, which is Conservative-controlled, clarified on Monday that one must pay the new £40 green waste charge in advance.

At the behest of this newspaper and other Twitter users including Labour councillors, the association the next day deleted the original tweet – though agent Andrew Young told us the claim had been “misunderstood”.

He said the £20 half-year charge available to those who only opt in for the November-to-April period meant “it could therefore be two instalments” – notwithstanding the fact there is no way to separately pay for the initial six months from May to November, when the majority of garden waste is generated.

He also stood by his association’s other tweets from Friday in which it cited higher brown bin charges implemented by councils under Lib Dem or Labour control. He told this paper these “clearly illustrated the hypocrisy of the other parties”.

Councillors criticising the North East Herts Conservative Association included Judi Billing – who represents Hitchin Bearton for Labour, and said the tweets were “an absurd fiasco”.

“I quite understand robust discussion when political parties tweet what they believe, but we do all have a responsibility to ensure that information we share is accurate and truthful,” she added.

Councillor Julian Cunningham, who is responsible for finance at the district council, has told this paper there is “no intention to allow the brown bin charge to be paid by instalments”.

“However, we will review this once we have the first year’s experience of how the system is working,” he said.

The charge, dubbed the ‘brown bin tax’ by Labour and the Lib Dems, was previously criticised after letters inviting residents to sign up did not include a phone number or postal address.

Those who sign up before April 1 get a £5 discount. Thereafter it is £40 for all who sign up until November, when it falls to £20.

NHDC says the brown bin charge is necessary because of financial pressures – but ahead of elections for 19 district council seats in May, Labour have pledged to scrap it if they gain control. With Labour now holding 12 out of 49 seats, this would require Labour to win all six seats they are defending and all 13 seats being defended by the Conservatives.

To find out more about the garden waste charge or sign up, see north-herts.gov.uk/gardenwaste.

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