Councillors last night (Thurs) agreed to start charging £40 a year to Harborough residents who want to continue with their green bin collection.
The £40 fee will apply from April 2016. Residents will have to sign up for the new green bin scheme, if they want to continue to have their garden waste collected.
The new charge was condemned by the Liberal-Democrat minority on the council, with group leader Cllr Phil Knowles saying: “I do honestly believe it’s a bin tax”.
But for the Conservatives, Deputy Leader Cllr Phil King said: “We actually cut council tax. This is not a tax, it’s an optional charge.”
During a public consultation, held earlier this year, Harborough residents gave a high approval rating for the waste collection service, as it then stood.
But the Conservatives argue that changes in the waste collection service are required to plug a £1.4 million a year gap caused by the loss of external funding, and a reduced market price on the sale of recycling materials.
Cllr King pointed out: “The collection of garden waste is not a statutory service, but is one that is popular with district residents.
“Against the backdrop of reduced funding and in order to continue to provide this service across the district it is necessary to start charging for the service in the future, as many other neighbouring councils already do.”
Council leader Cllr Blake Pain added that some councils who charged for waste collections elsewhere were Liberal-Democrat councils.
But Harborough Liberal Democrat Cllr Dr Sarah Hill said: “An awful lot of people bothered to respond to the council consultation on waste collection, and an overwhelming majority said they didn’t want to pay for green bin collection.
“Why consult and then just go ahead and do what you wanted to do in the first place?”
Information will be sent to Harborough district households in the New Year on how to subscribe to the service. The information will also be available on the council’s website.