EALING’S looming garden waste tax faces more criticism after claims that it may lead to increased fly tipping in the borough.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition councillors disapprove of the tax, which is due to come into effect next April.

Residents will be charged £40 a year, on top of their existing council tax, to have their garden waste collected by the council every fortnight, for 11 months a year.

Currently, garden waste is collected every week, free of charge.

Gary Malcolm (Lib Dem, Southfield) said: “Labour will introduce a new tax on residents, despite the fact that households are already struggling at this time.

“The garden tax will just add to the problem of illegal dumping and might reduce the overall recycling rate.”

Cllr Malcolm criticised the tax’s go-ahead despite opposition from Ealing residents and believed Labour-run Ealing Council have got it wrong.

Colm Costello (Con, Hobbayne) described the tax as “punishing people for doing the right thing”.

When Ealing Council was under Conservative control in 2006, Labour’s 50p charge to have a garden waste sack collected was abolished.

In the 12 months prior to this, the council collected 1,722 tons of garden waste. In the 12 months following the scrapping of the fee, it collected 3,496 tonnes.

Cllr Costello said: “One of the reasons we abolished the charge was because people didn’t want to pay an extra charge, so they just put their garden waste out with their household waste.”

The council does not accept garden waste in the normal household refuse collection, so rubbish collectors are unable to take such waste away.

Black bags containing such waste can remain on the roadside for days.

Garden waste will not be collected in January, meaning only 22 collections a year – almost a 60 per cent reduction in the service currently provided.

Opposition councillors believe this will not only lead to an increase in black bags littering Ealing’s streets, but also a reduction in general recycling.

Ealing’s Conservatives are so strongly opposed to the tax, they are starting a petition against it.

The petition is to keep recycling free and weekly and states: “We believe these changes will increase fly tipping, reduce the rates of recycling and alienate the very people whose support is needed.”

The ruling Labour group say that charging those with garden waste £40 will save £1m a year.

Bassam Mahfouz, the cabinet member for transport and environment, said he did not expect any increase in fly tipping.

He says Ealing has an excellent record of catching fly tippers, who are taken to court and prosecuted. Residents are aware of this, he insists, and are deterred from doing it.

The £40 annual tax is said to be cheaper than the garden waste removal charges in Richmond, Kingston and all other West London boroughs.

Ealing will also offer a choice of waste disposal containers – either wheelie bins or re-usable hessian sacks.

Cllr Mahfouz said Ealing needed to make savings of £85million over the next few years and such taxes had to be introduced.

Alternatives would be to reduce street cleaning to once every three weeks, closing leisure centres or switching off all street lights.