Garden waste bin collection charge in Rother set to rise

26/11/13- A green wheelie bin issued by Rother District Council for collecting garden refuse. SUS-151003-131721001
26/11/13- A green wheelie bin issued by Rother District Council for collecting garden refuse. SUS-151003-131721001

The charge for garden waste bin collections in Rother is set to rise from the current £35 per annum to £50 over the next few years.

At a meeting on Monday (November 4), Rother District Council’s cabinet agreed to cease the top-up funding it pays to East Sussex County Council – around £40,000 – for extra grass cutting on highways verges.

The decision comes as the authority faces a predicted overspend of more than £1.2m by the end of this financial year.

Speaking at the meeting, council leader Doug Oliver said: “This is the here and now [of] where the finances are and there are going to be various steps we will need to be undertaking. 

“We have been discussing this with the senior management team over the last few weeks, so there are various things which have come into play.”

While the council expects to cover the deficit from reserves this year, it is also looking at other cost-cutting measures to reduce pressure on its finances in the longer term.

These will include a round of voluntary redundancies in an effort to cut back on council staff costs.

Later in the meeting, cabinet members also agreed to increase the charges for a number of council services (with most rising in line with inflation). 

These included the charge for garden waste bin collections, which is set to increase from £35 to £40 next year and by a further £5 each of the following two years. This came in place of an increase to £50 next year, which had been recommended by council officers. 

More detailed cost-cutting measures are likely to come forward as part of the budget-setting process early next year.

According to officers, the majority of the predicted overspend (around £526,000) comes from its housing and community budget. This is largely due to the higher than expected cost of the council’s new joint waste contract and an increasing demand for temporary homelessness accommodation, officers say.

However, officers say, the council is also expecting a significant shortfall in its income generation work due to delays to its property investment programme. As a result, the council is expecting its income to fall short of its original budget by around £258,000. 

In addressing the budget overspend, cabinet member for strategic planning Jonathan Vine-Hall put the blame firmly on the council’s former Conservative leadership.

He said: “We have inherited from the previous administration a budget which was over optimistic on income and [had] far too high an expectation on expense savings.  It was a naive budget by any means.

“When you move to a budget which has a far higher liability on variable income – from car parking and other sources – you have to adopt a different mentality.

“In the past we had a fixed income through council rates and some more reliable sources against fixed expenses. Now we have variable income against fixed expenses and it requires quite a different mentality and quite a different approach to budgeting.”

In response, however, Conservative councillor John Barnes called on the cabinet to speed up its housebuilding programme.

This would reduce the costs of renting temporary accommodation places from the private sector, he said.

Cllr Barnes (Burwash and The Weald) said: “It is absolutely clear that you do need action on the housing front now, to secure new housing either by building using factory methods or more traditional methods.

“We need to deal with the problem of homelessness which is costing us a huge sum of money, quite unnecessarily if we put in train that kind of housing programme – on land that we own – immediately.

“We talked about this in the summer. It is now the autumn and we have made no progress on this.”