The leader of Renfrewshire Council has warned he won’t choose “hedge clippings over jobs” as he defended the controversial £40 garden waste permit.
The SNP’s Iain Nicolson addressed Councillor Eddie Devine after he urged the local authority to scrap the fee, which was rolled out during the summer.
The service change means residents who want their garden waste collected now need a valid permit displayed on their brown bin.
Councillor Devine and Councillor John Hood put forward a motion at Thursday’s meeting, which called for the uplift to revert to a service offered “free of charge”.
The Paisley Southeast rep said people had been hit with the charge “not at a time of plenty” but during a cost of living crisis when many families are “choosing between heating and eating”.
Councillor Devine added: “This service was provided as part of the mainstream council services, paid for out of grant and council tax income.
“It was introduced at the same meeting that the council increased council tax by 6%, so the council told people to pay more and get less.
“It’s time for the council to think again, scrap this garden tax and start supporting, rather than punishing, our residents.”
Councillor Nicolson, who represents Erskine and Inchinnan, pointed to the challenging financial picture the council is operating in as he made a case for the policy.
“We are working in an environment we can’t easily change,” he said. “We have to work within it and we have to make decisions, similar to many other councils that make the same decisions, with regards to brown bin permit schemes.
“I know he tries to reiterate this is some sort of charge or levy but it’s not, it’s an opt-in service for individuals and at this point in time we have 28,400 people signed up to permits. It brings an income in just now of £1,071,000.
“We can’t afford to prioritise hedge-clippings over jobs. We have to prioritise services, we have to prioritise the jobs of our employees, those people who deliver those services.
“I’m just saying to Councillor Devine, he has the luxury of coming along and putting things on this table, which he knows in his own heart have to be done in order to make sure we continue to deliver services that the people of Renfrewshire want.”
The administration agreed to an amendment suggested by the Labour group, which would see a review of the operation of the scheme, with a specific focus on churches and charities. Thirty-six councillors voted in favour of that idea, with only seven supporting the calls to scrap it.
The permit is not needed by residents who are presenting food waste only in their brown bin, since its uplift is a statutory requirement.
An exemption on payment is offered to householders entitled to full council tax reduction or with a severe mental impairment.
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