THE row over Ealing’s £40 garden waste charge was reignited this week as opposition councillors highlighted figures which, they say, show Labour underspent its annual budget by £9.4m.

From April 1, Ealing residents can subscribe to a scheme to have their garden waste collected fortnightly, for an annual charge of £40.

Subscribers will be able to put their garden waste in a wheelie bin or use three re-usable hessian sacks.

The move, from a free weekly collection to a chargeable service, is part of the council’s cost-cutting measures.

Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “The council must find £85m of savings by 2014. We were reluctant to introduce a fee for the garden waste service, but the alternative could have been moving to fortnightly collections of refuse and recycling.”

Those who do not want to join the scheme still have the opportunity to take their garden waste to recycling centres in Stirling Road, Acton Road and Greenford Road.

The waste collection charge prompted a petition of more than 5,000 signatures.

Conservative group leader Cllr David Millican is spearheading the campaign against the levy and says there is more than enough money to keep the free service running.

“Labour has the rather large problem of a £9.4m underspend, which indicates they have clearly cut more than was needed,” he said. “Labour is clearly determined to recycle as much money as it can from residents.”

Those who want to subscribe to the scheme can go to:

People over 65 and those who receive means-tested benefits will pay a discount fee of £30.