Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Leeds needs to scrap bulky waste charges to get itself off the top of the ‘Champions League of Fly-tipping’, a West Leeds councillor has claimed.
In a motion put to a full Leeds City Council meeting, opposition councillors have claimed bulky waste charges in Leeds have helped lead to an increase in fly tipping incidents of more than 700 per cent in less than 10 years.
The charges, dubbed the “DIY tax”, were introduced back in February 2018 for certain materials in an attempt to cover the cost of the authority’s waste disposal sites.
The motion, known as a “white paper”, was presented to a full Leeds City Council meeting by Calverley & Farsley councillor Amanda Carter.
It called on the council to scrap the extra charges and claimed government statistics show fly tipping incidents jumped from 2,977 in 2012/13, to 26,079 in 2019/20 – a rise of 776 per cent.
Coun Carter told the meeting rubbish was being dumped more than 70 times a day in Leeds, adding:
“To all those who perpetrate the blight on our city, we should be sending out the message ‘you will be prosecuted by the courts and you will be named and shamed’.
“(The council) should be making it as easy as possible for residents to do the right thing with their waste, and to ensure those that don’t will be dealt with to the fullest extent the law will allow.
“I look forward to reading the executive board report on how the administration will get Leeds away from the top of this infamous Champions League of fly-tipping.”
Responding, the council’s executive member for environment Coun Mohammed Rafique (Lab) said:
“This white paper paints such an inaccurate picture, it has to be challenged.
“It mentions analysis of the figures, but she can’t have paid much attention to them at all.”
He added that government guidance warned not to rank councils against each other, as they had different populations, while those with higher numbers of incidents are often those who have been “more proactive and rigorous in identifying”.
“(Coun Carter) treats us as if we are in a league table,” he added. “We are one of the most thorough councils – we are reporting thoroughly and honestly which, sadly, is not the case across all local authorities.
“Coun Carter should also remember we are the second biggest authority in the country, and numbers are not adjusted for population.
“When the numbers are adjusted for population, we are ranked 31st – not even in the top 10 for fly-tipping.”
He said fly-tipping was reducing in Leeds, and called for an amendment to the white paper, which called on more money from government to help tackle the problem.
Coun Stewart Golton (Lib Dem) said:
“I am never shocked at the amount that this council can pass the buck and ensure a problem of their own making can be blamed on somebody else.
“Isn’t it a better idea to treat the people of Leeds like the responsible adults they are and say ‘we want to help you’?
“Instead, the council is the problem. Get rid of your DIY tax at council tips, and stop fly-tipping at the source.”
Farnley & Wortley councillor David Blackburn (Green) said:
“I don’t care about what other authorities do – I represent Leeds, and I live in Leeds and it’s how we deal with the situation here in Leeds – we are not dealing with it.
“If you put charges on the disposal of waste, you are going to deter people from using the services, and they are going to dump them.
Coun Mark Dobson (Ind) said: “We should highlight this because it’s impacting people in the city of Leeds – it has to be raised.
“If there was an honest debate about the saving compared to the cost of fly-tipping, we could make an informed decision – but we never get that.
“Politics is a tribal business and positions have become entrenched. I don’t think if the administration simply said ‘actually we don’t think this is reaping the benefits we wanted – we are going to reverse it’, most people would see that an honours-even position and we could work together.”
Councillors ultimately voted in favour of an amended Labour version of the motion, which made no such commitment to scrapping bulky waste charges, instead calling on government to give the authority more funding to help prosecute fly-tippers.
Leeds City Council’s website lists prices to dispose of bulky waste at its household recycling sites. It states that for single items, such as sinks, toilet cisterns and chimney pots, are charged at £2.60 each for disposal.
Rubble, soil or ceramics is charged by estimated volume – at £2.60 for a 25 litre bag, £15.60 for a standard car boot-full, or £20.80 for an estate car boot full. The corresponding charges for plasterboard and gypsum-based materials are £4.80, £28.80 and £38.40.
In addition to this, the authority increased charges for individual bulky waste home collections from £20 to £30 in this year’s budget.