Judgment reserved in Max Recycle and Durham case

EXCLUSIVE: Judgment has been reserved in the latest case between the Durham Company (Max Recycle) and Durham county council, on an alleged breach of state aid rules with regards to commercial waste collections.

The case was heard at the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) on 18 January, with the appeal handed down on Tuesday (1 January)

At the heart of the case is the issue of whether using council municipal vehicles to collect trade waste is an unfair advantage for local authorities.

The case heard at the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) was brought by Max Recycle against a ruling in November 2020, which struck off its claim against the council (see letsrecycle.com story).

The hearing on Tuesday (18 January) saw each side’s legal teams debating the merits of the case and whether the judge was wrong to throw it out.

Lord Justice Coulson was the presiding judge, along with two others who will vote on the case.

Justice Coulson ruled: “There are a number of issues, so you will not be surprised to learn we will reserve our judgments”.

Dispute

Max Recycle has argued that commercial waste collections undertaken by the council breach state aid rules as they are carried out using the same staff and vehicles as the council’s household waste collections, which are paid for by the taxpayer.

Durham council says it carried out commercial waste collections legally.

The council in November 2020 was successful in having the case thrown out, with Justice Keyser at the time saying the case had “no real prospect of succeeding”.

Appeal

The case lasted only around three hours as the judge said he was “familiar with the details of the case” already.

Kicking off proceedings to have the ruling overturned was the legal team for Max Recycle.

The barrister representing them said: “We appeal against the order…on the basis we have a realistic prospect of showing at trial that the claim for damages is based on a sufficiently serious breach of obligation by the council. We think it should therefore proceed to trial for damages. Separately, we think the claim for declaratory relief is not merely academic but will establish matters of continued relevance and importance”.

He added: “The council has been able to exploit its special statutory position to impose on itself an anti-competitive advantage in the commercial waste market”.

In response, the council’s legal team outlined its case, arguing that the state aid claim ceases to be relevant under UK law.

The judge will now consider if the case should go to trial, before handing down a draft decision.

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