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Ministers slam county over recycling site charges

A county council has been attacked by two ministers for plans to charge for the use of some recycling sites.

Norfolk County Council intends to impose a fee for use of nine of its 20 recycling centres, though the other 11 would remain free.

Both sides have cited different legal interpretations of the powers of councils to charge for recycling.

Norfolk’s move has drawn criticism from local government minister Brandon Lewis, who is also a local MP, and environment minister Dan Rogerson.

They said in a joint letter: “It is our belief that this backdoor bin charge will both inconvenience local council tax-paying residents and create perverse incentives.

“Charging for using recycling centres will increase the risk of fly-tipping, harming the local environment and diverting taxpayers’ money to clean up the mess.”

The ministers cited section 51 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which they said puts a duty on local authorities to provide sites free of charge for the deposit of household waste.

They wrote: “We firmly believe that Norfolk County Council’s proposal to charge for [recycling] provision runs against the interests of householders and the government’s environmental concerns and seriously suggest it revisits its thinking.”

A council spokesperson said: “Charging a small fee at nine of our smaller sites from 2016 is one way of supporting the entire network and keeping all 20 open in the face of very significant cuts in Government funding that our county is having to deal with.

“The Environmental Protection Act tells us that the council has a duty to provide places for residents to deposit household waste free of charge and to dispose of any waste deposited there.

“The council would still be meeting this duty by providing 11 free sites spread across the county.”

Norfolk cited the Local Government Acts of 2000 and 2003 as giving it powers “to do anything which is likely to improve the wellbeing of their area and to charge for any service that we do not have a legal duty to provide”.

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