The leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors and the secretary of the Council’s largest trade union have joined forces to argue that the ruling Conservatives should abandon controversial plans to scrap the £36 annual charge for green bins as they would leave a £2 million gap in the Council’s coffers.
South Gloucestershire Council is in the midst of a £30 million savings programme, having cut £43 million earlier in the decade, and Chancellor George Osborne indicated this week that local government will have to find yet more cuts. Labour and Unison say that the Conservatives’ policy will require the Council to find a further £2 million of cuts unnecessarily, and that this level of cuts will devastate services in the district. Only yesterday the Tory council announced that it was working towards closing its Civic Centre in Kingswood in order to save money.
The ruling Conservatives refuse to spell out when they will introduce their policy or which budgets they will raid to find the alternative savings, with the Conservative Leader admitting on Radio Bristol on Wednesday that his party had “no timeline on that, which some people may find disappointing”.
Cherryll West, Unison’s branch secretary at South Gloucestershire Council, comments:
“For Council staff and service users, this uncertainty about the impact of the ruling party’s green bin policy on other budgets is more than disappointing. Local government is facing a very difficult time ahead, and the Council will have to spend all of its reducing budget wisely. I cannot see how providing free green waste collections can be the top priority for spending when there is so much pressure on other services and most councils across the country levy a small charge.”
Councillor Pat Rooney, leader of the Labour Group on South Gloucestershire Council, adds:
“The Council introduced green waste charging reluctantly because we had to find millions of pounds worth of savings and the alternative cuts, such as to our libraries, were even more unpalatable. Those choices have not gone away, and will only get worse with the new Tory Government’s drive for even deeper cuts.
The Conservatives have played a political game with this issue and have painted themselves into a corner. They should now admit that the Council cannot afford to scrap the charge, drop their rhetoric and abandon their plans. The Conservative Leader stated more than once at last week’s Council meeting that his group was “reasonable”, but they will prove themselves to be the ‘nasty party’ if they insist on choosing to pursue £2 million of cuts to other services just to save face.”