The issue was discussed at the recent Environment and Sustainability Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel. A final decision is expected to be made when the council sets its budget in February.
The proposal is one of many that, if agreed, would help the council to balance its budget (which is a legal requirement) and still maintain services. It is estimated that West Lothian Council faces a revenue budget gap of £38.2 million over the four years to 2027/28 and significant savings are required. In December 2023, council officers were tasked with identifying potential additional budget saving options to help contribute to balancing the budgets for 2024/25 and 2025/26. It has also been confirmed that the Scottish Government's Council Tax freeze next year will increase the funding gap by £1.4 million as it is not fully funded.
- It is proposed that permits for West Lothian residents would cost £50 per household per annum, with options to be considered for households with more than one brown bin. This charge compares with other councils.
- The majority of Scottish councils which collect garden waste charge for the service. Glasgow and Falkirk councils introducing charges last year.
- The proposal to introduce a chargeable garden waste service would generate additional net income of £1.15 million. This income would go towards the cost of providing the garden waste collection service
- Food and garden waste collections currently take place on a fortnightly basis from the brown bin. A chargeable garden waste service would see food waste continue to be placed in the brown bin and collected fortnightly without charge, with the purchase of a permit allowing customers to also place garden waste in the bin.
- Customers would continue to receive a food waste collection in their brown bin whether a permit is purchased or not. If, however, garden waste is placed in a brown bin which does not have a valid permit, then the bin would not be emptied on that occasion.
- It is proposed that the change could be implemented from May 2024
An estimated 80% of residents currently participate in the garden waste collection service.
Should residents not wish to have garden waste collected, they would be able to compost their garden waste within their own property or continue to dispose of garden waste for free at one of the council's five Community Recycling Centres.
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: "I don't think anyone wants to pay for a garden waste collection, but the options available to the council are now very limited and that is why the majority of councils already have similar charging schemes.
"We've faced significant budget reductions since 2007 and introducing garden waste charges is a proposal that has been discussed many times over the years. We've managed to avoid charging thus far, and have found savings from other services as alternatives.
"Operational Services - which provides vital services such as roads, paths, parks, recycling centres, waste and recycling - cannot sustain further cuts. We don't believe that is what local residents want, either. Without increasing income via charging, the only option available is to look at reducing services further and we don't want that. We want to protect services and protect jobs.
"We need to consider all options available to us given the financial challenges we face.
"It is inevitable that local services will change given the lack of funding being provided to us by the Scottish Government. It's not something we want to see happen, but councils legally are required to balance their budgets and the options to make significant changes are few and far between. Small changes are not enough to bridge the financial pressures and unfortunately residents, myself included, have to see changes to some services. Unless the Scottish Government provide additional funding for services such as garden waste collections, officers need to explore all available options.
"We know that half of Scottish councils already charge for garden waste and I suspect that this number may increase, as all councils have budget savings to make and limited ways to make them."