Suspending ‘barmy’ and ‘diabolical’ charges introduced at rubbish tips in West Sussex last year has been welcomed by a Tory county councillor.
Since October residents have had to pay £4 per bag or sheet to dispose of non-household waste such as soil, hard-core, DIY, and plasterboard at West Sussex County Council’s civic amenity sites.
At the same time hours of operation were reduced, while the majority of rubbish tips are now closed for two days a week as part of cost-cutting measures introduced by the Tory administration.
The Government’s anti-littering strategy published on Monday (April 10) includes plans to stop councils from charging for the disposal of DIY household waste as ‘legally household waste is supposed to be free to dispose of at such sites’.
A day later the county council immediately suspended charges until a review of Government guidance regarding charges at rubbish tips has concluded.
Philip Circus, who is standing down as a Tory county councillor for Storrington next month, said: “It’s a barmy policy. It’s the sort of policy we should never have entertained. It’s bad for recycling, bad for fly tipping, and has caused considerable problems for the residents.
“It’s the sort of thing that makes me feel ashamed to be in local government.”
Although opposition parties have been vocally against the changes, Mr Circus has been one of the few dissenting voices within the Tory ranks at County Hall.
He added: “I feel absolutely a sense of vindication. I knew the policy was wrong and knew it rested on a very flaky legal basis.”
Mr Circus, who is also cabinet member for housing and public protection at Horsham District Council, suggested calling it a suspension was ‘window dressing’ as he argued they would not be returning, adding: “They should not be charging for DIY waste, it’s considered household waste. It’s illegal to charge.”
He argued it was causing considerable problems for district and borough councils responsible for dealing with fly tipping, and farmers who had to clear up incidents on their land at their own expense.
Mr Circus described how a woman had turned up to the rubbish tip at Hop Oast near Horsham with a lavatory seat and was told if it was wooden she could dispose of it for free, but if it was plastic she would be charged £4.
He added: “This is the most diabolical nonsense it has led to, which undermines the reputation of the county council, it undermines the service, and discourages people from using the facilities.”
The policy has previously been defended by the Conservative administration as contributing to the council’s savings target, but Mr Circus argued that in such a large organisation there were other areas to save money. In particular he raised the ‘considerable amount of money wasted pursuing the devolution bid’.
He added: “The governance arrangements are never going to work and never going to be approved by the Government so the bid is going nowhere and is already in the long grass.”
Asked about claims fly tipping has not spiked since the charges were introduced in October, Mr Circus labelled these ‘nonsense’, pointing to the massive drop in hard-core being taken to rubbish tips, and suggested accurate information about incident numbers was not being properly relayed from district and boroughs to the county council.
Mr Circus felt that anyone who has paid to dispose of DIY waste would have a ‘valid legal claim against the county council’ to ask for their money back.
He suggested that ‘when the music stopped’ David Barling, cabinet member for residents’ services, was ‘left holding the parcel’.
Mr Circus concluded: “I’m very pleased David Barling has binned it and we will not see it back. It’s terminated because it’s bad policy.”
On Tuesday, Nathan Elvery, chief executive of the county council, said: “Following the recent statement made by the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it is the Government’s intention to review its guidance with regard to the charges that can be made at local civic amenity sites and the specific reference to the disposal of DIY materials generated by householders.
“In order to avoid any potential confusion for our residents in West Sussex we have decided to suspend all charges for these type of materials with immediate effect until the review by the Government has been concluded.
“From today therefore householders visiting any West Sussex amenity site will no longer be charged for the deposit of material which results from the sort of work householders would normally carry out on their homes – what most people would refer to as DIY waste.
“Once the Government’s review has been concluded the County Council will look at the matter again.”
Charges for tyres at Household Waste Recycling Sites remain in place.
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