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Tory Tip Tax – Charges for DIY Household Waste at Recycling Rates are they fair?

April 6, 2018 1:31 PM

fly-tipping

Norfolk County Council has announced https://t.co/qe29C5Glss that from 1 April 2018 there will be a charge for all DIY type construction and demolition waste. It will no longer be possible to take one large item or up to 80 litres of DIY waste to a recycling centre for no charge.

As a general rule, non-household or DIY waste items are materials created from the construction, demolition, alteration or repair of a home or garden. Materials may include a sink, bath, kitchen unit, radiator, fence panel, guttering, or rubble.

Is this Legal?

The Tory run Council have dismissed our questions on the legality of these charges. They say -

Under current government legislation DIY waste is classed as 'construction and demolition' waste and falls under the category of 'industrial' waste.

By law, councils do not have to accept industrial waste at their recycling centres.

The current legislation we abide by includes:

  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part 2, section 51 which requires the County Council to provide residents with sites for the disposal of household waste
  • The Local Authority Charging Order 2015 which prohibits charging residents for the disposal of household waste or for entering or exiting recycling centres
  • Controlled Waste Regulations 2012, Schedule 1, Part 3 classes construction and demolition waste (or DIY waste as we call it) as industrial waste, and not household waste, and therefore we can make a charge for it

However, a Government statement by Lord Bourne in the House of Lords on 20 March 2017 (HL5836) said:

The Local Authorities (prohibition of Charging Residents to Deposit Household Waste) Order 2015 prevents local authorities from charging their residents to dispose of household waste and recycling at household waste recycling centres. Furthermore, Government has been clear that DIY waste should be classed as household waste if it results from work a householder (living within the authority area) would normally carry out, and that this should be disposed of at household waste recycling centres for free.

Yet in In April 2017, the Government published its Litter Strategy:

'Government's view is clear: DIY waste is classed as household waste if it results from work a householder would normally carry out. A number of local authorities have introduced additional charges for the deposit of waste which local authorities categorise as 'waste other than household waste'. However, as Government made clear following the consultation on preventing 'backdoor' charging at HWRCs, this can inconvenience residents and make disposing of their waste more difficult. There is also a risk these charges can be counterproductive and simply transfer costs to dealing with additional fly‑tipping and littering. It is therefore important that, where charges are proposed, they are proportionate and transparent and are made in consultation with local residents so that local services meet local needs.'

Does this sound confused? Well the then Environment Secretary, Andrea Ledsom, said in April 2017 that "Charging local residents for doing the responsible thing and taking their household waste to the tip is not only unfair and unacceptable, but could also be a lead factor in the reported increases in fly-tipping".

On the back of that statement Tory run West Sussex County Council suspended all charges for the disposal of DIY materials generated by householders.

So it is not clear and Norman Lamb MP for North Norfolk on 29 March 2018 put down a Parliamentary question that asks:

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what is his policy on the practice of local authorities charging residents to dispose of DIY household waste.

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what assessment he has made of proposals by Norfolk County Council to introduce charges for DIY waste; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with reference to page 20 of the 'Litter Strategy for England', published in April 2017, which states that "DIY waste is classed as household waste if it results from work a householder would normally carry out", how this waste is defined by his Department and what items or materials it is intended to cover.

We await the Government answer.

Will this Change Increase Fly tipping?

Norfolk County Council say that - Previous changes to our recycling centre service, such as making sites part time, have not shown an increase in illegal dumping of waste. Other councils who have introduced a similar charge for DIY type waste have not seen a significant increase in fly-tipping.

Norfolk data from incidents on public land shows that only around 4.1% of incidents of illegally dumped waste relate to construction or demolition waste.

However, when Nottingham City Council introduced its free collection for large items ranging from furniture to televisions it said that it resulted in a 42 per cent fall in fly-tipping rates in the city. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/16/council-waste-charges-lead-increase-fly-tipping/

When North Yorkshire County Council introduced charges for the disposal of construction and demolition waste Hambleton District Council reported that fly-tipping clear-up costs had risen between 22 per cent and 302 per cent across North Yorkshire district authorities between 2014/15 and 2016/17.

The district council report said the rise had happened in the three years since the county council introduced charges at its 20 recycling centres, to save £330,000 as part of its budget cuts.

It added "Whilst incidents of fly-tipping of household waste had decreased, there had been an increase in the incidents of fly-tipped tyres and construction waste.

"This showed a direct correlation with the implementation of charging for these materials at the North Yorkshire County Council-run Household Waste and Recycling Centres"http://www.richmondshiretoday.co.uk/waste-disposal-charges-not-blame-fly-tipping-rise/

Of course Tory run North Yorkshire dismissed these claims the same way as Norfolk County Council is doing.

What we do know is that Defra figures suggest fly-tipping incidents fell from more than 1.28m in 2007/2008 to about 711,500 cases in 2012/2013 before starting to rise again, although the changes may in part be down to the way councils record the data.

Peter Jones from environmental consultancy Eunomia Research & Consulting has assessed these Defra figures in some detail - https://theecologist.org/2018/apr/04/fly-tipping-rise-so-what-can-we-learn-government-statistics.

His conclusions - "In truth, the more closely I have looked at these figures, the more convinced I have become that anyone who claims to be able to use them to draw conclusions about what's really going on simply hasn't looked hard enough.

That's pretty unsatisfactory for a national data set, especially one that people have a real interest in understanding. But unless guidance is tightened to give greater assurance that councils use common definitions - or at least explain when an apparent change is due to a new local policy - that seems to be the most reasonable conclusion to draw".

Cottage lane

What about Private Land?

Under current legislation, it is the responsibility of the landowner to remove waste dumped on private land and dispose of it legally.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says this legal loophole has even resulted in private landowners being threatened with prosecution if they fail to remove somebody else's waste from their land.

CLA president Ross Murray said: "These figures do not tell the full story of this disgraceful behaviour which blights our beautiful countryside.

"Local authorities tend not to get involved with clearing incidences of fly-tipped waste from private land leaving the landowner to clean up and foot the bill."

CLA members have reported a big increase in fly-tipping, with incidents ranging from unwanted sofas to broken washing machines, building materials and even asbestos dumped in the countryside, he said.

The CLA is calling for a zero-tolerance approach by local government to the problem, imposing and enforcing stronger penalties, ensuring powers to issue fixed penalty notices and seize vehicles are used and reducing council fees to legally dispose of waste. http://www.fwi.co.uk/news/mps-launch-inquiry-into-farm-fly-tipping-injustice.htm

Defra environment minister Dr Thérèse Coffey said that any evidence linking councils charging to receive certain types of waste with an increase in fly-tipping was "inconclusive".

Caroline Spelman, Tory MP for the Meridien constituency in the West Midlands, suggested that farmers should be paid to remove fly-tipping waste from farms as a public good.

Liberal Democrat View

These increases in charges are seen by the Tories at Norfolk County Council as a way to raise income with the idea that it will raise £280,000. This is a staggering amount based on inconclusive evidence that the change will actually work.

What we do not want is the countryside blighted on tourist routes by illegal fly tipping on private land. The beautiful countryside is an essential part of Norfolk life. It is also unfair on the private landowners who will have to pay to clear up the illegal activity.

Added to that is the difficulty in actually enforcing this at the recycling centres and the need for residents to work out precisely what and how much they can take to their recycling centres. It goes against the spirt of what recycling should be.

We will continue to push this issue on behalf of our constituents and ask the Tory administration at County Hall to see sense and suspend these charges.