A Conservative MP has questioned Defra about councils introducing charges at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), suggesting alternative financial incentives for those considering the change.
More than a dozen local authorities have started charging residents to dispose of ‘DIY waste’ at their HWRCs in the past few months.
As a result, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has re-stated a position that claims councils should not introduce such charges because DIY waste is considered to be household waste.
Local authorities introducing the charges dispute this claim, while Hampshire and Derbyshire have called for further clarity from DCLG.
As a result, Royston Smith (pictured above), who represents Southampton and Itchen, put down two written questions for environment secretary Andrea Leadsom about the changes.
He asked: “What assessment has she made on the effect of charging at refuse collection centres on (a) fly-tipping within the local authority area containing such centres and (b) levels of footfall at such centres?”
Replying on behalf of Leadsom, resources minister Therese Coffey said her department published fly-tipping figures annually, with the latest being for 2014-15.
She said Defra has not carried out a separate assessment of the effects of charging at HWRCs on fly-tipping within local authority areas or levels of footfall at such centres.
In his other question, Smith asked: “If [Leadsom] will make it her policy to offer alternative financial incentives to local authorities that plan to introduce charging for the use of refuse collection centres?”
To this, Coffey did not respond directly. Instead she said: “There is a long-established precedent of free access for local residents to deposit household waste and recycling at HWRCs.
“This ensures residents are able to deposit these materials safely and at minimal environmental impact. Local authorities can charge for the deposit of ‘non-household’ waste and can also charge users not resident within the local authority area.
“The detail of these charging arrangements is for local authorities to determine in consultation with local residents taking account of the framework set by legislation and potential for other environmental impacts.”
Meanwhile Surrey, which introduced DIY waste charges in September, has reported a big drop in fly-tipped waste despite fears the changes would have the opposite effect.
Some 206 tonnes of fly-tipped waste were collected by local district and borough councils in October compared with 469 in the same month last year – a drop of 263 tonnes.
Mike Goodman, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “On top of that, the amount we’ve dealt with since April is 1,000 tonnes down on the same period last year. But we recognise there is more to do and that there are local concerns about fly-tipping, which is why we are stepping up co-ordinated action against the problem with district and borough councils.”
Before the charges were introduced, more than 1,500 residents signed a petition calling for the council’s introduction of charges at nine of its 15 HWRCs to be scrapped.
The petition, set up by a councillor, said: “The new recycling and waste charges to be introduced on 1 September are exorbitant and will mean that the problem of fly-tipping will increase.”