AN MP will continue to ‘bite at the council’s ankles’ over charges for garden waste collection.
Harrow East MP Bob Blackman highlighted the plight of thousands of people who signed a petition against a ‘garden tax’ when he spoke in a parliament business meeting.
The collection of garden waste in Harrow is now costing households £75 a year, after Harrow council introduced a brown bin charge earlier this year.
Households that signed up to the service will receive 25 collections per year using the current 240 litre brown bin, equalling £3 per collection, but protestors have dubbed the move a “stealth garden tax”.
Speaking in the House of Commons on October 15, Mr Blackman said: “Harrow Council has announced its intention to impose a £75 charge for the collection of garden waste.
“This back-door council tax increase for a monopoly service is likely to be the most expensive in London, and possibly in the whole country.
“May we therefore have an urgent debate in Government time on councils imposing additional charges for monopoly services that the public have no choice but to accept?”
Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, replied: “My hon. Friend highlights the risk of monopoly services generally. We should always seek to deliver choice in the public sector where we possibly can.
“Seeking to offer consumers choice has been part of what this Government, and indeed our party, have done for a very long time.
“I understand that the situation he describes must be hugely frustrating locally.
“I know that he, as a powerful advocate for his area, will be biting at the council’s ankles for what it is doing.”
Mr Blackman has already contacted other London boroughs to ask for details on their collections and what charges, if any, they apply and found that, on the basis of the replies so far received, Harrow has the most expensive garden tax in London.
Speaking to the Harrow Times, he said: “Harrow Council is introducing a high charge for a service that Harrow residents are already paying for in their Council Tax.
“This is nothing less than a garden tax to penalise those who maintain their gardens. Equally this is a monopoly service so the choice for residents is either pay up or take the garden waste to the depot themselves.
“Given that Harrow also has the third highest Council Tax in London as well, and the council has just closed down a spate of important community hubs, including the much missed Bob Lawrence Library in Edgware, residents are entitled to be asking why this extremely high garden tax is being forced onto them.”
More than 5,500 people in Harrow have signed a petition against the charges, claiming they are unfair on low income families and the elderly.
Cllr Susan Hall, who led a failed motion to call in the decision on the charges, said: “I’m very pleased Bob Blackman has raised Labour’s outrageous garden tax again.
“Harrow residents pay the third highest council tax in London, and Labour now want them to pay £75 on top of that for a collection that’s only going to be half as often as when it was provided ‘on the rates’.
“Nearly 7,000 residents have signed our petition against this charge; it’s high time Labour listen to what they are being told.”
Cllr Graham Henson, Cabinet member for Environment, Community Safety & Crime, said: "The Conservative Government has imposed £83m of cuts on Harrow Council and our residents from 2014 to 2018 – this is over 50% of our controllable spend for services from waste collection to care for the elderly and the disabled.
"With this amount of cuts we’re having to make some tough decisions about what services the Council can continue to provide.
"Due to the Government’s cuts, nearly a third of Councils across the Country, including many Conservative run Councils, have introduced charges for the optional service for the collection of garden waste.
"Quite frankly, instead of playing political games its about time that Bob Blackman started to stand up for the residents of Harrow, by calling for the Borough to be fairly funded by government."