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Councils warned against cutting HWRCs

Cash-strapped local authorities are being urged by the Government not to reduce access to household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) or charge for garden waste if there is a risk of increased fly-tipping.

In its response to a Communities and Local Government select committee inquiry, officials agreed there had been a “significant upsurge” in fly-tipping in England over the past year, and that councils face an increased financial burden.

But it said councils would have to consider whether garden waste collection charges or reduced HWRC provision would lead to an increase in fly-tipping, and would need to “act accordingly”.

The response also questioned current estimates that it costs local authorities between £717m and £850m a year to deal with litter, and that the direct cost was likely to be lower.

Along with many other local authorities, Oxfordshire County Council has proposed reducing its HWRC network to save money.

But a consultation revealed strong public support for the existing network, as there was a “perceived risk” of increased fly-tipping if the number of HWRCs were cut.

As a result, the council is now looking at maintaining existing sites for the time being but reducing their opening times.

The Government has also agreed to set up a national litter strategy, to “clarify the contributions that different sectors can make”, including councils, fast food businesses and chewing gum and soft drink manufacturers. There are as yet no further details what the strategy will entail.

Waste and resources minister Rory Stewart said: “Litter has a huge impact on the quality of our streets and public spaces, which is why we will be working with businesses, environmental groups and local authorities to develop a national litter strategy.

“We are also giving councils new power to tackle small-scale fly-tipping and we will be reviewing the case for higher fixed penalties for littering.”

Recent Defra figures show the number of fly-tipping incidents in England have increase for a second year running, and now stands at 900,000.

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