People 'double and triple charged' for green waste collection in Central Bedfordshire

A Central Bedfordshire Council green waste bin.A Central Bedfordshire Council green waste bin.
A Central Bedfordshire Council green waste bin.
Council introduced a £55 charge in this year’s budget

Around 250 residents accidentally “double and even treble charged” for its new garden waste collection scheme have been refunded, according to Central Bedfordshire Council.

The local authority said in a statement: “So far, 35,500 residents have subscribed to the garden waste collection service, representing about 29 per cent of all eligible households.

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“The garden waste collection service is fully operational and running well, with many residents having received their first collection.

“We had a technical issue in the first week, where payments were incorrectly taken more than once from around 250 residents. This was quickly rectified, and we’ve apologised and refunded residents affected.

“Currently, we’re not collecting unwanted bins because we’re continuing to see whether residents decide to sign up for the collection service. We intend to review this in a few months’ time.”

A decision to charge £55 per green waste bin was introduced by the Independent ruling administration in its first budget.

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A decision to charge £55 per green waste bin was introduced by the Independent ruling administration in its first budget, which came into operation from the start of this month.

The overcharging problem was revealed during a written question from Conservative Dunstable West councillor Eugene Ghent at a CBC meeting, last night (Thursday, April 18).

His question read: “Following the opt in/opt out option for residents to sign up for the green bin waste charge, can the executive member confirm how many residents have so far signed up to opt in and what percentage of residents is this?

“Can you also tell me how many requests made by residents to return their bins have been received?”

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Independent Flitwick councillor Gareth Mackey, who chairs the council, suggested councillor Ghent should pick one of his three questions to ask.

Councillor Ghent explained he checked with the monitoring officer before the meeting whether it was suitable as presented, and opted to ask the question as written in the agenda.

Councillor Mackey then told Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh to pick which of the three questions she wished to answer.

Executive member for planning and waste councillor Walsh said: “The number you’re looking for is 32,357.”

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Councillor Ghent was left to assume that refers to the number of residents who signed up to carry on having their green waste collected.

He added: “I’ve had residents (locally) receive an email having pursued their refund, after being double or treble charged. Many customers have been overcharged.

“Officers have said in an email that they’re ‘processing a high volume of duplicated payments and we’re doing them in batches’ because there are so many.

“Can you confirm that all our overcharged residents have had their money back, given that it’s two or three weeks since the extra amount was levied on them?”

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Councillor Walsh replied: “I’m afraid the answer is ‘no’. I’ll give you a written answer when I have it.”

The controversial charging policy has led to confusion before after an initial indication that residents not signing up to continue with garden waste collections would have their bins collected was put on hold in case they changed their mind.

And a social media post about the garden waste plans prompted a complaint from 11 Conservative councillors about the way the administration is running local authority affairs.

The councillors complained to the council’s chief executive and its director of place and communities voicing their “extreme frustration” over the proposals being leaked on social media before being shared with them.

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Ahead of an official announcement, CBC’s Dunstable Independents posted on Facebook the garden waste charge is an opt-in system and residents opting out could “use their wheelie bin as a composter”.

Independent Dunstable East councillor John Gurney later apologised, saying: “After reflecting upon the text, I realised the mistake I’d made in my article and deleted (it) within hours.”

CBC has been asked for comment.