Scottish Borders Council should today issue a public apology for scrapping kerbside garden waste collections and for failing to take account of the consequences.
That call for contrition has come from Andrew Farquhar who raised an 8,000-signature petition demanding that the service, withdrawn in March without any public consultation, should be reinstated.
He and his supporters appeared to have been thrown a lifeline when, after a hearing last week, SBC’s petitions committee agreed to refer “consideration and a final decision” to today’s full council meeting.
Committee chairman Councillor Alec Nicol declared: “The decision [to withdraw the service] was taken by the full council and it should now go back to the full council.”
But Mr Farquhar told the Berwickshire News that today’s debate amounts to “gesture politics” with only one possible outcome.
“Councillors will hum and haw about how difficult a decision it was to make before closing ranks as they have done twice before when this issue has been debated,” he predicted. “The hopes of thousands are dead in the water and I strongly urge the council to at least offer them an apology.”
Earlier, Mr Farquhar had wheeled his own green bin into the Newtown chamber and used it as a symbolic lectern to talk to his petition.
“These are not just names on a sheet of paper but real, responsible citizens struggling to come to terms with having to put garden waste out with general waste after nine years of diligent recycling,” he stated.
He cited the disproportionate impact on the elderly and the disabled; the difficulties faced by car-less people getting to recycling centres; the failure of private enterprise to plug the service gap; the surge in garden waste going to landfill; the number of floral displays now being concreted over and an increase in fly tipping – all, he claimed, as a direct result of last December’s decision to scrap the green bin uplifts.
SBC’s depute chief executive Philip Barr said the council was, in effect, being asked to introduce a new service which would cost over £600,000 a year to run and a similar amount in one-off capital costs.
He highlighted “inequality issues” if the collections were only revived for the 38,000 urban households which had enjoyed the service, and not the region’s estimated 19,000 rural households which had not.
Mr Barr said operational problems associated with the removal of the uplifts had either been or were currently being addressed. Recycling facilities were being improved and expanded and there had only been 12 incidents of fly tipping reported in June, July and August.
He claimed reinstatement would adversely affect those private businesses which were now operating garden waste collections.
The committee was told that SBC’s required compliance with landfill reduction targets would be “assisted” when a new waste treatment plant became operational (in 2017) at Easter Langlee in Galashiels.