CHARGING West Berkshire residents to dispose of their non-household waste will not lead to an increase in fly-tipping, according to a senior district councillor.
The categorical claim came from the council’s executive member for environment and waste, Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston), who also branded those suggesting the local authority’s decisions had (or would) lead to an increase in the illegal practice as “irresponsible scaremongers”.
West Berkshire Council has faced criticism after introducing the fees at its household waste recycling centres in Newbury and Padworth earlier this month.
Disposing of a transit van full of ceramics, rubble or soil can now cost as much as £92.40, while charges for disposing of a 25-litre bag or equivalent are £2.45 per bag.
Speaking at last Thursday’s full council meeting, Mr Boeck addressed the issue when responding to fellow councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale), who had urged the local authority to re-think the charges in light of the subsequent “public outrage”.
Mr Macro had the previous week presented the council with a 300-signature petition against the new fees.
However, Mr Boeck dismissed the claim that the move had caused any upset, saying: “Councillor Macro, you talk about public outrage at the introduction of these modest charges – we’ve only received four enquiries, one freedom of information request and 16 comments on West Berkshire Council’s social media.
“We’ve been surveying residents using the recycling centres and promoting the changes. The feedback has been quite positive, I’ve heard some of it myself.
“The residents we spoke to were not concerned about the introduction of the charges and would prefer to make the contribution towards the cost of disposal rather than lose the service all together.”
The council has brought in a number of changes to its waste recycling service as it looks to make savings from its budget.
The decision to charge residents for dumping non-household waste comes a year after the council restricted access to its tips to West Berkshire residents only through the introduction of permit scheme.
That decision followed the breakdown of a financial agreement between West Berkshire Council and its neighbouring authorities that allowed West Berkshire residents to use tips in Reading.
Mr Macro has said since then there has been an anecdotal increase in fly-tipping in the area, while a freedom of information request by the Newbury Weekly News earlier this year showed that the number of instances of fly-tipping in West Berkshire rose by 10 per cent in the last six months of 2016 when compared to the first half of the year.
However, Mr Boeck shot down the claims of a rise in the illegal dumping of rubbish, saying: “There’s a lot of misunderstanding and disinformation about fly-tipping.
“We have seen no increase that is attributable to recent changes in our disposal schemes and I anticipate no increases as a result of the introduction of these charges.
“I would say people who are running scaremongering stories about fly-tipping are behaving irresponsibly.”
After the meeting, Mr Macro said he was disappointed with Mr Boeck’s “dismissive” response, accusing his fellow councillor of displaying “contempt” for the public.
“Getting 300 signatures does show there’s a lot of public concern and just to dismiss it the way he did was very disappointing,” he said.
Speaking about the claims of “irresponsible scaremongering”, Mr Macro added: “If he wants to attack me that’s fine, but if he is going to attack many other people who have raised these concerns – members of the public who pay his wages and elect him to that position – then that really shows a bit of contempt.
“He should listen to what residents say. To criticise members of the public like that is wrong.”