By Mark Fairlie

UK councils are collectively charging almost £74million a year for garden waste collection, new research has found.

The data collected by BBC One’s consumer TV programme Rip Off Britain also revealed that more than half of local councils have now introduced the charges.

53% of councils charging for garden waste collection

Gathering responses under the Freedom of Information Act, the daytime television show spoke to 322 of the total 326 UK councils responsible for waste collection. Of these, it was discovered that 172 charged residents for picking up garden waste.

Rip Off Britain found that the average cost to residents of those in these districts represented a charge of £42.40 a year each. The research has sparked conversation across the country as to whether it is fair to charge Brits in certain areas for garden waste collection and not others, and the overall impact these fees could have on the UK.

The BBC’s research also found that these councils’ charges have risen from a total of £42.3million in 2014/15, to £56.9million in 2015/16. Now, the data shows that councils will generate more than £73.9million a year in these garden waste pick-up fees.

Prices vary greatly across the country

Despite the average cost per resident working out at around £42.40 a year, the BBC programme found that prices for the collection of green waste could vary greatly across the country.

Harlow in Essex was revealed to be the most expensive council, with an average cost of £96 a year for garden waste collection per resident. This was followed closely by Arun in West Sussex, who charge £86 a year in pick-up fees.

On the other end of the scale, Richmond in North Yorkshire charge only £22 a year, with Monmouthshire having the lowest average cost of just £18 on average. 150 councils questioned by the Rip Off Britain team did not charge for garden waste collection at all.

The programme also features a particular street in Greater Manchester which is divided between two councils. One charges for garden waste and the other does not; highlighting how confusing these unregulated charges can be.

UK councils charging £74m a year in garden waste collection

Government cutbacks

A spokesperson from the Local Government Association has said councils were forced to introduce the costs due to a cut in funding by the central government. Councils across the UK will have £90.7billion to spend on services over the next two years, following an overall funding gap of over £5billion.

“Some councils were able to provide free garden waste services when they were first introduced but are now having to charge to reflect the growing cost of providing a collection service,” he said.

The spokesperson went on to add that where councils charge to get rid of garden waste, “they must ensure the charges are reasonable, clear, and take into account the views of people in their area.”

The LGA report that almost half of all 168 councils in the UK will no longer receive any core central government funding by 2019/20, where others will have lost 75p for every £1 they received in 2015.

LGA chairman and Lincolnshire district councillor Lord Porter says that councils cannot be expected to “run our vital local services on a shoestring. We must shout from the rooftops for local government to be put back on a sustainable financial footing.”

“Unlikely to change any time soon”

The broadcast has raised concerns about the unequal pricing of garden waste collection across the country, with many believing Brits should not be charged at all for the service.

A resident of the divided street in Greater Manchester, Ian Billington, said that he was “shocked” when he received the letter informing him of the new collection fee, as the cost had previously always been included in his council tax bills.

Others, such as Tom Simpson of Goldenhill, have suggested that the rising costs will likely encourage fly tipping to avoid the fees.

Rip Off Britain Presenter Gloria Hunniford concluded that

“while clearly some of our viewers are unhappy their garden waste is no longer taken away for free, the results of our survey show it’s unlikely that’s going to change any time soon.

“And with further councils set to introduce such charges, even more of us will need to get used to paying to have our grass clippings taken away.”