17 April 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Opposition to DIY waste charges in Surrey

An attempt to scrap charges for DIY waste at recycling centres across Surrey has been blocked by the county council.

Charges for disposal of some ‘non-household’ waste items at nine of Surrey’s community recycling centres (CRCs) were introduced in September 2016 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Surrey county council will continue charging for disposal DIY waste items at its community recycling centres

A motion to cease these charges was put forward at a county council meeting last month, with reports of an increase in fly-tipping.

Speaking at the meeting, Lib Dem Councillor Stephen Cooksey said: “Liberal Democrats launched an online position last month to urge the council to withdraw the charges in line with conservative government policy. That petition received over 1,400 signatures in a very short period of time confirming the overwhelming opposition to this council charging policy.”

Fly-tipping

In the Litter Strategy, the Government suggests that charging for waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) “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.”

However, a survey by resources charity WRAP claimed that there is limited evidence to link charging at civic amenity sites with an increase in fly-tipping. (see letsrecycle.com story)

The Government has pledged to work with WRAP to review current guidance and make clear what can and cannot be charged for at HWRCs, including in respect of DIY waste.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Cooksey said: “It’s interesting and relevant to note that the government’s latest statement comes in the context of its growing concern about fly-tipping.

“It’s clear from information supplied by organisations such as the National Trust that fly-tipping has increased significantly since the introduction of charges.”


Cllr Cooksey
Surrey county council

“It’s clear from information supplied by organisations such as the National Trust that fly-tipping has increased significantly since the introduction of charges.”

According to Cllr Cooksey, most recent statistics for the use of Surrey’s recycling centres in January and February shows this year there was 3,300 fewer visits each week compared to January and February last year.

He said because of this, an increase in fly-tipping “seems inevitable”. And he accused the council of leaving the district and borough councils to “pick up the bill”.

Savings

In response Conservative councillor Mike Goodman, cabinet member for environment and transport, acknowledged that the government “would rather not allow charging to happen at CRCs,” however, he said “the law would need to change to stop councils charging, without such a change I do not believe this council should change its policy”.

Cllr Goodman was keen to point out the savings achieved through the changes introduced at the authorities HWRCs. “The introduction of revised opening time, charging for DIY waste, tighter controls over business use and changes to not allow residents from outside Surrey in some locations to use our facility has seen a reduction in 35,000 tonnes of waste taken to our CRCs. This is estimated to save this council £1.7 million a year,” Mr Goodman explained.

Surrey county councillor Mike Goodman inspecting waste at one of the authority’s HWRC’s

Cllr Goodman revealed he is meeting with Robert Vaughan of DEFRA later this month to discuss a number of waste issues including DIY waste. “We want to work with DEFRA to find the right sustainable solution,” he said.

Funding

Conservative councillor, Mr John O’Reilly, added: “I’ll say this to my own government, that when they restore at least some of the funding for adult social care, when they bring back some of the funding for education, when they bring some of the funding for roads, then we can have a serious conversation about whether charging for DIY waste is appropriate.”

“And, until and unless they are prepared to bring money back to us then I think it’s a bit rich even in a consultation paper for the government to pursue that policy or that recommendation.”

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