CITY of York Council’s Labour administration has hit back over opposition claims the rollout of the green waste subscription service was timed to avoid a ward by-election defeat.

The subscription service with an annual fee of £46.50 was launched this week, with online and phone applications being received by the council for a start date of August 5.

Sixty-six thousand residents have been asked to pay for the kerbside collection of green bins or find alternative methods to dispose of garden waste if they choose not to subscribe.

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York Liberal Democrats claim that the Labour-controlled council originally paid for subscription service adverts with a July 22 start date to be posted on social media and in the ‘Handy Mag’ magazine delivered to thousands of homes in the north of the city.

They claim plans for that rollout were halted after the general election was called for July 4, with 66,000 letters to residents already printed and ready to send, at a cost to taxpayers of £15,000.

A member of the Labour executive said the decision to launch this week was taken by council officers to ensure software linked to registration is ‘robust’.

'Getting the system right is important'

Constituents in the Hull Road ward who went to the national polls on July 4 were also asked to vote for one new councillor, following the resignation of Sophie Kelly, Labour’s incumbent in the position.

A win for any other party’s candidate would have seen the Labour group lose its majority on the council.

The result saw Labour hold the ward seat through John Moroney with 1,203 votes to 1,008 cast for the Lib Dems.

Councillor Paula Widdowson, York Lib Dem spokesperson for environment and climate change, said: “It would appear that Labour cynically chose to delay their deeply unpopular Green Bin Tax by two weeks, costing Council Tax payers £15,000, in order to avoid sending letters to residents asking them to pay up or lose their green waste collection.

“The Hull Road ward by-election was won by a wafer-thin margin, which suggests that if Labour had stuck with their original launch date, they may have lost that by-election and with it their majority.”

Executive Member for Environment and Climate Emergency, Cllr Jenny Kent said: “The decision to launch the green waste subscription service this week was taken by council officers to ensure the software enabling residents to register is robust.

“The council is keen to avoid repeating the failures of the old Liberal Democrat-Green administration’s digital respark rollout.

“Getting the system right is important.”

The Liberal Democrats called for a pause in any subscription fee until the new government revealed plans for local spending.

Cllr Widdowson said: “This is a regressive tax that will hit the worst off in York the hardest.

“We have been led to believe by the Labour council executive that a Labour government would end the austerity in local government finances.

Cllr Kent said: “York’s green waste subscription is not a tax as it’s an optional service not currently available to a sizeable proportion of the city’s residents.

“It follows almost every Lib Dem controlled council in the country charging for the same service and was known about by the public well in advance of recent elections.”