Confusion reigns over brown bins in North Herts election leaflets

The contentious Conservative leaflet. Picture: Conservative Party

The contentious Conservative leaflet. Picture: Conservative Party - Credit: Archant

An election leaflet by the North East Hertfordshire Conservative Party which was put through doors in Royston last week claimed that the brown bin collection service was to continue to be “heavily subsidised by North Herts District Council”

The statement, which was under the heading ‘Facts not Fiction’, reads: “Due to financial pressures, without the introduction of charging, the whole non-statutory service would have been lost. This service will still be heavily subsidised. To reverse the decision now would cost £750,000 to £1m.”

A North Herts resident, who did not want to be named, said: “I was made aware last week that a political group were claiming that this service will still be heavily subsidised in relation to the now chargeable and deeply unpopular brown bin tax.

“But NHDC said on their website the income from charging for garden waste collections will make the service self-financing.

“Immediately I realised that there seemed to be a conflict of facts, so I contacted the Crow in the hope that they could get an answer to this important question.

“I also asked NHDC if the service was subsidised via their Facebook page but didn’t receive a reply until today, which said in basic terms that the brown bin service is receiving no subsidy at all.

“I support no political party, but I do support facts.”

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The Crow contacted the North East Herts Conservatives, and a spokesman said: “The charge is only fully self-financing if there is over a 75 per cent take up across the district. At this stage the take up is nowhere near that figure, so it will be heavily subsidised.”

North Herts District Council confirmed that the garden waste collection service, which now costs £40 annually – would not be subsidised in anyway, but did not clarify whether the 75 per cent uptake figure was correct.

Vaughan Watson, head of environmental services at NHDC, said: “Payments made by residents for the chargeable garden waste collection will make the service fully self-financing.

“This chargeable service will not be subsidised in any way. Like many councils we have a reduced budget from central government and need to save £4.2 million pounds annually by 2021/22. We can therefore no longer afford to subsidise the cost of collecting this additional waste.”

The Conservatives also pointed to an inaccuracy in a Liberal Democrat circulation where they said 85 per cent of people in North Herts voted against the brown bin charge, when according to NHDC it was 85 per cent of consultation respondents – the percentage of respondents in North Herts was around three per cent.

Lib Dem county councillor Steve Jarvis said: “8,000 people in North Herts responded to the consultation – a pretty good sample. The council put out a survey every year and they are perfectly happy to use a sample of this size as representative of the area as a whole.

“The results of elections are reported first on the basis of opinion, so I think it’s reasonable to report the point of view.”