NEW charges for green waste collection are not simply another form of tax, according to cabinet members of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The new £40 annual charge for collecting garden waste from homes across the borough was the main talking point as the cabinet gave its backing to a new decade of waste management.

Holding its first physical meeting on Wednesday (June 9) since March last year, the cabinet discussed at length a report into the new waste managing strategy, which will be in place between 2021 and 2031.

The report followed what was described as the biggest public consultation in the borough's history, with nearly 15,000 responses being received.

With the proposed charge being labelled by many as nothing more than a green bin tax, several councillors said that wasn't fair and that the £40 fee should actually be considered a service charge, with the authority under no statutory requirement to collect garden waste.

As part of wider plans under the strategy, the full council will also purchase a new fleet of bin wagons, two of which will be fully electric, while the existing fortnightly kerbside collections will remain, which more than 70 per cent of the public demanded as part of the consultation.

Other recommendations will see the current recycling boxes, described as 'ghastly' by Cllr Karen Shore, Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, replaced by larger recycling bins on wheels, which will also be collected every two weeks.

Cllr Karen Shore said: "The last review took place back in 2002 and the world has changed significantly in that time.

"I think it's fair to say that is now very much out of date and the time is now to review our waste services.

"It's clearly sparked a debate and interest amongst our residents, but I also think it was done very well during the pandemic.

"There has been an increase in waste, especially with people working from home more.

"The council's priorities remain, in fact they're more important than ever, we must reduce, reduce and recycle.

"We listened very carefully to what people said about the options in the consultation, all of which were viable.

"The thing that is of real beneficial to residents is getting rid of those ghastly recycling boxes that I have, ever since I can remember, received complaints about.

"The new bins are on wheels and will make it much easier for people who struggled carrying the existing boxes."

It is recommended the new waste collection system will be in place for a minimum of three years and will be flexible enough to meet any change in national and local recycling policy.

On the subject of introducing the green bin collection charge, Cllr Shore said 'budgets were tight' and the fee was all about 'cost recovery' for the council.

She said: "This is a discretionary service.

"It is on the basis of cost recovery, that is to simply to cover the cost of it, which is approximately £2.5million.

"That is based on a take up of about 60 per cent.

"We are living in a world where we have to look very carefully at the discretionary services we are offering.

"Budgets are tight.

"We wanted to give people the option, so if you don't have a garden, you don't have to pay for it.

"We would also encourage people to consider sharing a bin with neighbours and help build stronger communities."

Cllr Paul Roberts said the introduction of the £40 charge was 'a regressive tax' and that 'it did not feel right' and that those with much smaller gardens would be most affected as he called for the council to look at it again in more detail.

However, Cabinet Members Cllrs Richard Beecham and Carol Gahan strongly disagreed with the assessment of the charge being any form of taxation.

Cllr Beacham said: "At the moment council tax pays for the green waste services, but it is not a statutory service.

"In a sense, we're diminishing funding for services that should be paid for by council tax, due to a service that shouldn't be.

"This is a service charge for a service the council is providing but doesn't have to.

"But we recognise this is a service that's important to residents, so it's about balance.

"We have to make real choices, such as funding for libraries and adult social care.

"It's about trying to find a system that is reasonably charged.

"We're nowhere near the most expensive in the country."

The recommendations were given the clear backing of cabinet and will now be considered at the next full meeting of the council on July 15.