Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, is to go ahead with plans to prevent local authorities from charging entry or exit fees for residents using a household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) service, including any fee regarding the quantity of waste and recycling deposited there.
Councils implementing an existing charge will have until April 2020 to make alternative arrangements for their sites, in case being forced to stop charging residents immediately results in site closures.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) ran a four week consultation on the proposals, claiming these charges could lead to an increase in fly-tipping and “backyard burning” of waste. (See CIWM Journal Online story)
It asked for ways in which a HWRC at risk of closure could stay open without having to charge residents for use.
Half of the respondents to the consultation welcomed the proposal to prevent local authorities charging for use of “discretionary” household waste recycling centres while, and half did not.
The Government said, however, that it is not persuaded by the arguments of those respondents opposing the proposed approach.
DCLG – “Rather than trying to introduce ‘backdoor’ charges, the Government believes councils should be seeking to deliver sensible savings from more joint working, improved procurement, cutting fraud and better property asset management”
Some respondents said the proposed approach is “anti-localist”, while others maintained that due to cuts in council budgets the charges should remain.
The Government disagrees, saying it “clearly has a role to play in working with councils in England to improve and safeguard frontline services for residents, in return for the central funding that councils receive from national taxation. Parliament had previously legislated on this matter, to ensure a minimum service standard.”
DCLG says that councils have continued to balance their books while public satisfaction with services has been maintained over this Parliament, showing the scope for efficiencies.
“Rather than trying to introduce ‘backdoor’ charges, the Government believes councils should be seeking to deliver sensible savings from more joint working, improved procurement, cutting fraud and better property asset management,” it said.
Some respondents rejected the Government’s claim that fly-tipping will increase where charges are introduced, but this was not the majority of respondents’ view as 16 (comprised of individuals, unitary and district councils, and a representative body) made comments specifically to agree with the Government’s claim, the consultation outcome document says.
It says: “The Government remains of the view that such charges will not only inconvenience local residents and make recycling harder for them, but will actively harm the environment, by encouraging fly-tipping and backyard burning. We understand that in the Republic of Ireland, which has a series of charges on household waste collection, the domestic burning of household rubbish is the biggest single source of the emission of toxic dioxins into the air. Such pollution crosses local authority boundaries, creating a wider externality and harm to the public good.”
Respondents offered ideas, often a number of ideas, on how household waste recycling centres at risk of closure can stay open without local authorities resorting to charging their residents to dispose of household waste and recycling.
- the example of a successful pilot scheme with a third sector organisation operating a household waste recycling centre
- costs could be kept down through changes to site opening times and associated reduced staff and operational costs
- centres could develop reuse facilities on site, with the possibility of i) on-site training/apprenticeships in furniture restoration; ii) sales of restored/refurbished items; and iii) opportunities for residents to take away items they desired that would otherwise be expensive for the household waste recycling centre to dispose
- developing more attractive cost tariffs for local businesses using centres
- more transparency in the Packaging Recovery Notes system and ensuring that a greater proportion of this revenue is routed directly to local authorities
- improvements in management and monitoring (for example to prevent fraudulent trade waste disposal) would bring savings to reduce the risk of closure
- “producer responsibility” should offer more on-going support for household waste recycling centres (both in terms of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment collection and packaging waste)
- proposing Central Government intervention in the form of business rates reduction or lower Environment Agency permit charges.