Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Monday, March 3, 2014
Proposals which would see Norfolk families charged for using some of the county’s recycling centres have been slammed by government ministers as a “back-door bin charge”.
And they have questioned the legality of the move to make the £2 charge, which is intended to help plug Norfolk's budget deficit.
Tory ministers have sent a strongly-worded letter warning Labour council leader George Nobbs that the move would increase the risk of fly-tipping.
The intervention, in a letter co-signed by local government minister Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, and waste minister Dan Rogerson, also suggests that under the law waste should be accepted free of charge.
Recycling centres in Ashill, Bergh Apton, Docking, Heacham, Snetterton, Strumpshaw, Wells, Worstead and Wymondham could introduce a £2 charge under the council's plans to cut costs and make £189m of savings.
But Norfolk County Council said 11 of Norfolk's main recycling centres would still be free
"Charging a small fee at nine of our smaller sites from 2016 is one way of keeping all 20 open in the face of very significant cuts in Government funding that our county is having to deal with," the council said.
County Hall says it needs to bridge a spending gap of £66.5m in 2014/15 and £189m over the next three years.
There has already been opposition in some quarters of County Hall with the charge to visit the smaller recycling centres apparently only saving around £280,000.
And in a report detailing the consultation responses the council said 268 out of 394 of those who responded did not support this proposal, with most of the responses that were against it citing concerns about fly-tipping.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs letter from the ministers said: "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."
It said it should be easy for people to recycle and the would mean that people "simply put such items in their residual waste bins, so they end up in landfill".
It cites the Environmental Protection Act (Section 51), which says: "Local authorities have a duty to provide sites for the deposit of household waste. Where such sites are provided in fulfilment of this duty, waste must be accepted free of charge".
The letter said: "We are interested to hear how Norfolk County Council squares its charging proposals with the requirements of the Act."
"I firmly believe that Norfolk County Council's proposal to charge for HWRCs provision runs against the interests of householders and governments environmental concerns and suggest it seriously revisits its thinking," the minister said.
Would a charge increase fly-tipping? Or is it a sensible way to cut the county council's deficit? Write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich or email email@example.com giving your full name, address and contact details.