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Labour and Tory rubbish pact wastes £750,000 per year

October 7, 2004 12:00 AM
A southampton blue lid recycling bin

Lifting the lid on costs

At the Southampton City Council meeting on the 6th October 2004 the minority Liberal Democrat administration plans to repeat the Eastleigh Borough Council very successful recycling scheme were defeated and the costly alternative will hit Southampton Council Tax payers hard, in fact to the tune of £750,000 per year.

The Labour and Conservative groups' proposal is for weekly collections on non-recyclable rubbish and fortnightly collections of recyclable rubbish. This will mean that instead of having two rubbish collections in any one fortnight period there will be three. The three collections rounds will cost more than two, because of the extra vehicles and staff required to perform the extra rubbish collection round.

The amount of £750,000 per year is larger than many Infant School revenue budgets and commenting on the proposals Southampton City School Governor David Goodall said :-

"I find it incredible that at a time when as a school governor I am asked to watch every penny that two political parties would gang up to waste three quarters of million on an unnecessary rubbish collection."

"I live 100 yards outside the city boundary in Eastleigh Borough and the system as proposed by the Liberal Democrats in Southampton as worked well for over 6 years in Eastleigh and it is very popular"

The problem is not only one of increased cost but also lower recycling rates. If the system is organised so that people can put all the rubbish in the non-recyclable rubbish bin then some people just do not bother to use the recycling bin. Therefore those councils with a weekly collection for non-recyclable rubbish and fortnightly collection of recyclable rubbish have lower recycling rates. For example :-

  • Test Valley Borough council has the system as proposed by the Southampton the Labour and Tory groups and as of March 2003 their recycling rate was 13% after the borough-wide launch during September 2001.
  • East Hampshire District Council has the system as proposed by Southampton Liberal Democrats and as of the summer of 2004 their recycling rate was 31% after the district wide launch in 2002.

East Hampshire District Council performance mirrors that the leading local council in this field Eastleigh Borough Council who started their twin bin collection scheme in 1998.

The Eastleigh scheme was started in the days when there were no central government grants available to assist with the start up costs of a twin bin system. Today if a council organises a scheme that meets the government's recycling targets then a grant is given. However if the scheme does not meet the government target then the council loses the grant and the full cost has to be carried by the council tax payer.

The system as proposed by the Labour and Tory groups will probably not meet the recycling targets and therefore cost the Southampton council tax payer another £420,000. A very stealthy Labour and Tory tax rise if ever there was one!

The Labour and Tory pact on this issue is even more remarkable in the light of the trials performed in Southampton in the past year. The trials were of the alternate weekly scheme as proposed by the Liberal Democrat group. After the trail a survey by MORI of the trail area found that 70% of the people polled were in favour of the scheme trailed. So the Labour and Tory pact now means that 70% of the people will now get a more expensive and less efficient recycling scheme than they want.

During the council debate Liberal Democrat Councillor Jill Baston cabinet member for Environment matters pointed out that the opposition parties plan will :-

  • cause less recycling
  • downgrade the council in the eyes its citizens
  • generate higher tax council bills

In part of his reply Conservative Group leader Councillor Alec Samuels said that his group strongly supported environmental issues and believed that the scheme his group proposed was the best one. It is a pity that Councillor Samuels did not check his facts out first with the Conservative District Council Leader in East Hampshire.

In part of her reply Labour Group leader Councillor June Bridle put forward a motion which said :-

"That officers be asked to investigate alternative methods of collecting recycling materials which could

(a) be both environmentally and financially beneficial and

(b) encourage higher levels of recycling of creating greater awareness through education and incentives."

Unfortunately for Councillor Bridle it has already been proven that recycling schemes which are both environmentally and financially beneficial are :-

  • ones that involve kerbside recycling
  • ones that limit non-recyclable rubbish collections
  • ones like the Eastleigh and East Hampshire schemes
  • ones like the one her party voted against on Wednesday 6th October 2004.