Brown bin garden waste row escalatesBy Becky Barnes
August 17, 2012
Brown bin charge protesters are refusing to back down with their claim the council has breached its contract over garden waste.
Sandhurst Residents Association (SRA) believes Bracknell Forest Council broke a contractual agreement with people who paid a one-off fee for a brown bin, when they decided to introduce a collection charge.
David Vousden, secretary of the SRA, said: “What we are concerned about is not the £30 a year they are going to charge, but the fact they are walking away from the contract.”
The council announced in December that new brown bin customers would pay an annual collection fee from April this year.
Existing customers were given a year’s free service, but will be charged £30 a year from next April.
The SRA said it accepts garden waste collection is not something the council has to do by law, but believes anyone who paid a one-off charge should be compensated.
Mr Vousden wrote to the council on behalf of the group after receiving complaints from residents in person, via their online forum and at their July general meeting – including pensioner Ivor Lyne, whose complaint has previously featured in the Bracknell Forest Standard.
In a letter to Steve Loudoun, chief officer for environment and public protection, dated July 19, Mr Vousden said SRA believed an arrangement between an individual and the council was a ‘normal business contract’ and claimed they had documentation to prove this.
The letter asked the council to offer compensation and also asked the council to share the legal advice it had sought on the matter, as it was paid for with taxpayers’ money.
In a reply from Mr Loudoun, dated July 30, he refused to disclose the advice and said it was ‘confidential’ and ‘not liable to disclosure’.
He said: “The council believes it is acting within its legal powers and without breach of obligation to anyone. At that time no representations were made to residents that collection of garden waste would be a free service.”
He added there would be no compromise or delay in introducing the charge.
In a second letter dated August 14, Mr Vousden asked Mr Loudoun to revisit documents from meetings, press releases and correspondence to those taking up the one-off £30 fee.
He said: “It is difficult to understand how any reasonable individual would not interpret the council’s offer as anything but contractual.”
In response to the council’s refusal to disclose legal advice, the SRA said: “We can only conclude that the advice was as substantive as we were led to believe.”
The SRA said it will pursue the details of the legal advice via the Freedom of Information process.
In Mr Loudoun’s latest response he said he could no longer deal with the matter as it was now a Stage Two complaint, which would be escalated to Vincent Paliczka, director of environment, culture and communities.
In his reply Mr Loudoun said: “It is clear I can comment no further in response. The council has set its policy and I cannot change this.”
Mr Vousden said he is in the process of composing a letter to Mr Paliczka.
To contact the SRA in support or opposition of the issue email email@example.com.