RESIDENTS have accused Mansfield District Council of bringing in ‘unfair and annoying’ extra charges after it began asking for £46.59 to replace stolen and damaged wheelie bins.
Some councillors are also among those criticising the decision to scrap free replacements, but council officers say the fees are a key in driving down costs in the face of shrinking budgets.
The new fee applies to bins which are stolen and vandalised as well as broken, leading some residents to call for a re-think.
Many also say there should have been a consultation and wide publicity of the change, leading one councillor to call for a review.
Joan Taylor said she phoned the council last week after husband Ray realised the lid to their green wheelie bin was broken after being left for collection outside Manby Court home in Meden Vale.
“I was told they had been charging for them since 1st April and it was £46,” said Mrs Taylor (70), a retired machinist.
“I said ‘excuse me?, that’s half my pension’.”
The council later said Mr and Mrs Taylor could have the bin repaired for free; the new rules say bins can still be replaced for free if damaged accidentally by council staff.
“What’s annoyed me is we didn’t know about it. We only found out about it when we rang,” she added.
“I’ve worked all my life and have a pension of £90 a week so if you look at it like that it’s my food bill for a week.”
Other residents whose bins have been vandalised said they were still expected to stump up the fee.
Pete Shields (50) said he and four of his neighbours in flats on Ossington Close in Meden Vale were facing the charges after their blue recycling bins disappeared two weeks ago. Some were seen to have been set on fire inside a shelter on the adjacent park.
“I was told by a neighbour they are asking for £46,” he said.
“It’s not such a bad idea if the owner vandalised the bin themselves, but when someone has stolen yours, taken it to a field and set it on fire, why should you pay?”
Mrs Taylor was told she would not have to pay after contacting newly-elected Netherfield ward councillor Derek Evans, who held a meeting with council officers.
Said Coun Evans: “I appreciate they are having to cut back but £46 is a lot of money to many people at a time when everyone is finding it harder.
“You could be hit with a bill for your bin through no fault of your own. There ought to have been more consultation.”
He added he plans to push for a review of the policy.
Council figures show the authority delivered 116 replacement bins this April, compared to 335 in the same month last year.
A fee breakdown listed the cost of the bins at £21.45p each, with the rest of the fee assembly, delivery, administration and VAT costs.
Elsewhere, neighbouring Ashfield District Council charges £25 for replacement bins.
The charge was brought in as part of budgets approved in March, designed to plug a £3.08m funding gap following Government cuts.
Said Ajman Ali, the council’s corporate director for housing, property and operational services: “Replacing lost, stolen or damaged bins cost taxpayers in the district in the region of £30,000 last year with replacement bins being provided free of charge to more than 3,500 properties.
“While some of these replacements will have been for legitimate reasons, it is possible the system was being abused by some residents who may not be taking reasonable care of their bins or who were using it for other purposes and claiming their free replacement.
He added supplying the free replacements was ‘unfair on the majority who had to foot the bill’ and ‘unsustainable’.
He added: “It was decided therefore, in line with other councils, to make a charge for replacement bins – not to make a profit, but purely to cover the cost to the taxpayer and make the service break even.
“We will replace bins if they have been accidentally damaged by our operatives during collection or have reached the end of their life.”