Councillors in St Albans are to consider charging for the collection of green waste from next July as part of a bid to balance the budget in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

St Albans District Council currently collects the first green waste bin – or re-usable bag – from every property for free; households only have to pay if they want an additional ‘green’ bin to be emptied.

The council's cabinet will meet on Thursday to discuss proposals to bring in an annual charge of up to £45.

Cllr Anthony Rowlands, who is responsible for leisure, heritage and public realm, said the charge for garden waste is “unavoidable”.

Pointing to the impact of Covid-19 on council finances, he said:  “Reluctantly, we have decided we have no option but to fall into line with many other local authorities across the UK and charge for green waste collections.

“The impact of Covid-19 on our finances means we cannot continue with the free service, but will have to charge like our neighbouring councils – Three Rivers, Watford and Welwyn Hatfield – have been doing.

“Covid has greatly reduced our revenues, by up to £150,000 a week during the first lockdown, while increasing demand for many of our public services and thus our costs.

“The result is a projected budget gap for the next financial year which is likely to be several million pounds, requiring us to look at ways we can make savings or increase our income.

“Charging for a garden waste collection is a fair way of improving our balance sheet as the free service only benefits people who are fortunate enough to have a garden rather than the whole community.

“No one likes an extra bill, even modest 86p a week, but I hope our residents will accept that this is unavoidable in the current financial climate.”

According to the officer’s report to the cabinet, the annual charge would be lower for those signing up to a recurring direct debit, at £40.

It would be reduced to £35 for those on ‘council-related’ benefits.  such as universal credit, job seekers allowance, council tax support, incapacity benefit and guaranteed pension credit.

Those residents who do not want to subscribe to the service would be encouraged to compost at home.

According to the report, research shows that the majority of councils that collect waste nation-wide charge for the collection of green waste

And it says five other district councils in Hertfordshire already charge – or are introducing a charge – for the collection of green waste.

They are reported to be Broxbourne, Welwyn Hatfield, North Herts, Three Rivers and Watford – with standard annual charges ranging between £35 and £45.

Councils are only allowed to charge if green waste and food waste is collected separately. This is not the case in East Herts, Hertsmere and Stevenage.

According to the report Dacorum is the only council in Hertfordshire that collects food and green waste separately and does not charge for the collection of green waste.

Currently the cost to the council of collecting garden waste is around £600,000 a year. But estimates in the report suggest that implementing the charges would meet £520,631 of that cost.

According to the proposal, the charges would be introduced in July 2021. However the report notes that this may be subject to Covid-19 restrictions.

The proposal will be considered at a  virtual meeting of the cabinet on Thursday, November 19 at 7pm, which can be viewed online.