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Four out of five councils hit homeowners with ‘garden tax’

Garden waste such as grass cuttings now has additional cost to be removed
Garden waste such as grass cuttings now has additional cost to be removed - Jeff Morgan/Alamy

Four out of five councils are levying a “garden tax” on households, where families are forced to pay to get rid of their grass cuttings.

Of the 314 councils in England, 254 charge residents to pick up their green waste, a survey by the Telegraph has found.

This means that of the 22 million English families who live in houses with gardens, over three quarters (76.5 per cent) are subjected to a garden tax.

The number of councils levying the charge has shot up in recent years, as cash-strapped authorities look for new ways to raise funds.

A survey from 2019 by the BBC’s shared data unit found that just under two-thirds (62 per cent) of councils in England charged for green waste. This was already up from 48 per cent in 2016, according to an earlier survey carried out by the gardening company Mantis.

On Friday, Tory MPs criticised the garden tax, with Sir Jacob Rees Mogg, a former Cabinet minister, saying: “Badly run councils are trying to squeeze money out of people in every possible way – including car charges, low traffic neighbourhoods and now they are trying to penalise people for gardening. It’s symptomatic of dysfunctional local governments which always want more money.”

Meanwhile, Sir John Redwood MP said councils are “driving people to despair”, adding: “A large number of councils mismanage their finances in a dreadful way and then try to think up all sorts of ways of charging people more and raising the taxes.

“Councils’ expenses are out of control, the taxpayer has got a dreadful deal and is lumbered with all sorts of losses. They are always pleading poverty and spending money on things no one wants.”

While councils have a statutory duty to collect household waste free of charge, they are allowed to charge for garden waste.

Councils are charging an average annual charge of £56, but this increases to £100 in a handful of councils including Enfield, the Isle of Wight and Waverley.

On top of bin collection “subscription” charges, many councils have been charging residents a one-time fee for garden waste bins themselves.

Boston council in Lincolnshire charges residents £40 to have a garden waste bin delivered to their property, along with a further £50 per year to have their waste collected.

Garden waste collection in Richmond, west London costs £84 per year, and residents without a bin must also buy their own for £36.

Some have outsourced the service to private companies at up to £82 per year, charged to households.

Other councils have scrapped garden waste deliveries altogether and encourage residents to take their green waste to refuge sites themselves or compost all of it instead.

Elliot Keck, head of campaigns at the campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils are finding ever more ways to raise revenue, yet are hitting taxpayers with council tax increases every year. The garden tax is just the latest example of this developing trend, where taxpayers pay more, but receive less.”

Four in 10 councils in England are at risk of going bust over the next five years as the local authority funding crisis spirals out of control, according to accounting firm Grant Thornton.

Since 2021, six councils have issued section 114 notices, meaning they have declared themselves effectively bankrupt, with Birmingham City Council and Nottingham City Council the most recent to file notices.

In 2024, one in five councils in England are on the brink of financial failure, defined as having cash reserves at 5 per cent or less than their total revenue expenditure.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Public satisfaction with local waste services remains very high. It should be for individual councils with their residents to decide how to carry out waste collections locally and whether the costs of providing green waste collection should be met by all taxpayers or just those that use the additional service.”