For the last two weeks, the mainstream media and blogosphere has been discussing Mike Freer’s proposal to model Barnet Council on budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair.
On Monday, Cllr Freer was interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme in which he gave an example of how his plans - dubbed easyCouncil - will actually work.
Cllr Freer denied that the council was looking to charge more for providing a premium service (which is what the budget airlines do). Rather, residents would pay less if they use less. Mr Freer cited refuse collection to demonstrate the point. He said:
“Mr Resident, that full wheelie bin is costing you, the taxpayer, £300 a year in landfill tax. Tell you what. Have a half size bin, recycle more and over the year if we find that you are not putting out side waste at the end of the year we’ll give you £100 or £200 back.”There are two immediate problems with this proposition.
First, for residents to recycle more, the council has to substantially increase the range of materials which can be collected at the kerbside. At present, Barnet residents cannot recycle the following:
yoghurt potsall of which make up a significant proportion of our current domestic waste.
plastic food trays
fruit juice/milk cartons
cardboard which has been contaminated with food waste (e.g. dirty pizza boxes)
The second problem is the condition Cllr Freer proposes to impose before residents qualify for lower council tax: “…if we find that you are not putting out side waste…”
In other words, once you have filled your wheelie bin, do not leave out any surplus waste in bin bags.
The corollary of offering a lower charge for less waste is that you pay a higher charge if you have more. But how many families could realistically expect to get by with a half size wheelie bin each week?
It is not difficult to foresee what will happen. Once your own bin has been filled, residents will either put their waste in other people's bins or, worse still, just dump it in the street in order not to lose the discount.
Barnet Council made a pledge to maintain weekly refuse collection services in the borough. But by cutting the bin size in half, they will effectively be reneging on this pledge by stealth.