In the area where I live we are charged for the removal of garden waste bins. This is a relatively new development and I know that it winds a lot of people up. However, I have thought about it and actually I don’t mind this – even though we do have a garden, and it’s going to cost me money.
I like tax (although there would be a limit to that statement). Hear me out – I am serious.
Taxes facilitate the pooling of resources and group buying power, and can result in ambitious projects that wouldn’t otherwise have been put in place (e.g. the railways, the National Grid, motorways, the internet). Council taxes pay for policing and fire service, which we hope never to need, but which we expect to be able to rely upon.
Tax also allows vulnerable people to be protected when they can’t afford it (the sick, the disabled, pensioners, for example).
If a referendum were held in my area to increase council taxes by 5% to emergency services, social care and services for the community, I would vote in favour – though I am lucky enough to be able to afford the £50 or so a year that it would cost. If such a referendum was passed, the local council would have millions of pounds more to spend (though hopefully not on boardroom tables and Beyoncé concerts).
But instead of putting this to a vote, my council has decided to make many of its services elective for those who need and/or can afford them. Again, I am in favour of this for non-essential services, as it allows the council to continue to increase its budget in line with government restrictions, but increase the proportion of that budget it can spend on more essential services like social care which people aren’t generally in the position to pay for on their own.
The only drawbacks that I see about charging for green bins are that firstly, it provides a disincentive to people for having gardens. However, the cost of a green bin or a trip to the tip relative to paying for your garden to be paved over is very small – and of course, you could always compost more, and use waste more creatively to create habitats or garden features.
The other drawback is increased fly-tipping, which is already reaching epidemic levels in UK towns and cities due to the increased costs of sending material to landfill. This is more of a problem, but actually an indirect one – as any householder with a vehicle can tip green waste free of charge. The problem is more likely to arise out of situations where householders look for cheaper disposal solutions and end up driven in to the arms of cowboy waste disposers – who absolutely are a cause of problems – including the spread of Japanese knotweed.
Unfortunately, it has always been the case the Japanese knotweed is a problem for individuals rather than taxpayers at large; our chance to eradicate this problem completely has long since passed.
Now, with mortgage lenders requiring insurance-backed guarantees before they lend on properties with Japanese knotweed, there is much more of a widespread burden on UK householders to pay for Japanese knotweed treatment. Unfortunately, this can be quite a lot more expensive than a green bin disposal, and most people face the costs on their own, through no fault of their own.
Chris Oliver, Operations Manager, Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd