Watford Council’s decision to start charging for green waste collection is on the face of it a simple way of bringing money into the council coffers, but if one stands back and looks at the bigger picture it is in fact setting an uncomfortable precedent.

The whole principle of public services provided by local councils, and to a large extent the state is that, rather than have people paying for every single service that they choose to use, everyone makes just one payment which covers everything. Tax payments at state level, county level and local council level cover all the essential services such as health, police, schools, social services, highways, street cleaning, parks and waste collection. This is much more efficient than generating separate bills for every person or household depending on what they need or choose to use. An enormous amount of administration would he involved in carrying out the billing, keeping track of who has paid for what, and chasing unpaid bills.

Charging for green bin collection could be the thin end of the wedge. It could well be the black bin collection next. There is in fact a much stronger case for charging for black bin collection because it would make residents work harder to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste they generate.

In theory a benefit of introducing ‘pay as you go’ for council services previously covered by council tax should be that there is a corresponding reduction in council tax. In practice there is little or no prospect of this.

Basically a simple system is being replaced with a more complicated one. Households will now have four different waste bins instead of three. Food waste is going to be collected weekly instead of fortnightly, and the collection of green waste will now involve a raft of additional administration at Watford Town Hall.

One can debate the financial implications of the move but the dangers of moving away from the long-established collective payment system on which local councils are based should not be ignored.

Peter Hutchinson

By email