Savings made by moving to a three week bin rota are vital in keeping council tax down, town hall bosses have said as this year’s budget is set to be revealed.
Borough residents will see their tax bill rise by three per cent to help plug adult social care costs for 2017/18 but will face no other rate hikes.
We are going ahead with it because it’s our strategy to keep council tax downLord Smith
In order to do this, council leader Lord Smith said the £2m saved by moving from a two week to three week collection schedule would be crucial.
Although, having “taken on board” a largely negative reaction to the changes from the public consultation, larger families or households that can prove they will not be able to cope may be allowed extra black bins.
Speaking to the Observer ahead of the budget proposals being presented to the full council at the start of next month, Lord Smith said: “I think the consultation very largely supported our position on aspects of the budget such as keeping council tax down and trying to keep services going.
“Obviously the most controversial part was the bin proposals. But what we did pick up on was some confusion about what it means.
“Some are worried about big families and some thought it would mean smaller bin sizes, it won’t.
“We are going ahead with it because it’s our strategy to keep council tax down, if you look across Greater Manchester we’re the only one considering three per cent, everyone else is looking at the 4.99 rise so as to not trigger a referendum.”
Figures from the consultation reveal 594 respondents agreed with moving to a three weekly system for black bins compared with 3,885 who disagreed.
Residents voiced concerns about public health implications of leaving waste out for prolonged periods and questioned whether the change will lead to a rise in fly-tipping.
However, council bosses said research into other local authority areas to have implemented a three week rota showed that recycling rates had shown a marked improvement. And Lord Smith said it was important for the borough to improve its current recycling rate from 45 to 50 per cent in order to not get hit with the “double whammy” of landfill tax charges plus extra sanctions from Westminster in 2020.
Households will be offered the chance to take up “waste audits” to help them cope with the new system, which will be in place by September. Those who are found to not be able to cope with one bin collection every three weeks - such as families with several children - may be handed extra bins.
The specific criteria for this extra dispensation is yet to be decided, though, Lord Smith told the Observer.
Last year the Government revealed plans for local authorities to bring forward its social care levy from two per cent increases spread over three years to three per cent increases spread over two.
Lord Smith confirmed Wigan Council would take up this offer as he said by the third year (2019/20), when town halls under the current system will not be able to impose any further hikes, the system may have changed.
He said: “I suspect there will be some different solution to social care by then, clearly there is pressure on the government to sort this out and their three per cent is a totally unfair system because places like Wigan don’t make as much as many other councils.
“They just need to get a grip and get a solution to social care because it is impacting on the NHS. For example, here in Wigan we have gained slightly on the new social care grant but have lost out on the new homes bonus. We think across GM there is a £75m deficit on social care.
“The Government needs to start talking seriously to health authorities, local authorities to find a solution.”
The budget will be presented to the ruling cabinet next week before going before the full council on March 1.
Deputy chief executive Paul McKevitt said the authority was on track to hit its long-term savings plan, meaning around £160m will have been cutback over the a decade.
He told the Observer: “It’s about £43m we need to make by 2020 but the plan is still on track. This year we will make the £15m we needed to and the £16m next year looks achievable, but obviously it’s getting more and more difficult as each year goes by. We certainly think the long term plan will be held until 2020.”
As part of the new budget, council bosses have committed once again to keeping school crossing patrols with the £400k saving it would have generated deemed to be not worthwhile given the safety the service provides.
The Community Investment Fund - which provides financial help for community groups - will be extended through this year.
And a shake-up of the library provision - which has recently been subject to a separate consultation - will not mean any facilities closing.
The bin changes begin in September. Green bin collections will remain on the fortnightly rota apart from between November and March each year, but this aspect of the new system will not start until 2018.