MP to appeal case in Birmingham green waste row

An MP whose legal action against Birmingham council over green waste collections in the city was rejected has told letsrecycle.com he will appeal the case.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley, was ordered to pay the council’s court costs of £13,101 after his application for a litter abatement order to force the local authority to pick up dumped garden waste in the constituency was rejected by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Friday (October 10).

Green waste bags left to fester on a Birmingham street earlier this year
Green waste bags left to fester on a Birmingham street earlier this year

Mr Hemming had previously warned he was building a legal case against the council in May, following a political row over the council’s ‘mishandling’ of green waste collections (see letsrecycle.com story).

Birmingham’s Labour-run local authority came under fire for its introduction of an opt-in £35 charge for green waste collections, with opposition members arguing it would lead to an increase in flytipping and overburden household recycling centres.

Elections

The issue came to a head days before the local elections in May, with the council admitting it had reached a ‘tipping point’ over the amount of green waste dumped on the city streets and rolling out extra collection rounds to deal with the pile-up.

But speaking at the court hearing on Friday, Tim Green for Birmingham city council argued that Mr Hemming’s application to obtain an order against the council had been “premature”.

He argued that Mr Hemming had changed his allegation since July –and added that the order should focus on specific items of litter during a particular time frame, rather than an “open-ended obligation” for the council to collect garden waste flytipped in the Yardley constituency.

In response, Mr Hemming said that while some bags had been cleared up since the application was made, examples of dumped green waste still remained. He added that his constituency “is full of rubbish”.

‘Ambiguous’

Ruling in favour of the council, district judge Robert Zara stated that Mr Hemming’s order relating to Yardley was ambiguous and “too wide” for the purposes of the Environmental Protection Act. He added it “would be outside the court’s power” to grant an abatement order in respect of a whole parliamentary constituency.

Writing on his blog after the hearing, Mr Hemming said: “In one sense I lost a battle in court today (having 13K costs awarded against me).  However, possibly over 500 dumps of green waste have been cleared up as a result of the legal action although not all of the ones I highlighted were removed.

[testimonial id = “52” align=”right”]

“I am likely to appeal the case.  However, the clear message of the case is simply to do lots more applications for litter abatement orders, but avoid taking them to final hearing.  I will, of course, consult with my constituents, but the early response is that they would like me to continue to fight the council on this issue.”

Also speaking after the hearing, Cllr Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for a green, smart and sustainable city, said: “We regret the resources yet again taken up in what was essentially pointless court action when we could have put our energies into collaborating on ensuring citizens have clean, well-managed streets.

“We are pleased the courts have supported the view we have repeatedly expressed to Mr Hemming – we have made every effort to deal with the issue of dumped green waste during the transitional first year of our new chargeable service.

“We will continue to do everything within our powers, including working closely with residents, to keep the city as clean as possible, despite the challenging financial situation we face as a result of central government funding cuts to the council.”

Budget

Last month, Conservative councillor for Edgbaston Ward, Deidre Alden, claimed that the council had made a ‘U-turn’ and axed their cuts to the street cleansing budget. However, the green waste charge remains in place.

Green waste collections are due to be suspended for a 12-week period from next month before resuming in February 2015.

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