Senior opposition figures in Leeds City Council have pleaded with the ruling Labour group to ditch its so-called “rubble tax” at a highly-charged meeting this week.
Charges were introduced back in February 2018 for certain materials in an attempt to cover the cost of the authority’s waste disposal sites.
Following opposition to the charges Conservative councillor Barry Anderson brought a motion to a vote calling on the charge to be ended altogether, believing it contributes towards high levels of fly-tipping in the city.
However, the council’s executive member for environment, Coun Mohammed Rafique, claimed fly tipping was worse in other cities, and that a report into what to do about the issue would be produced later this year.
Speaking to the meeting, Coun Anderson said: “Labour’s bin taxes – or whatever you want to call them – hit the poorest most.
“As a percentage of their income, imagine how much they have to spend.”
He referred to a report from the Yorkshire Evening Post published in February, which listed the 12 worst areas for fly tipping in the city.
Addressing Labour members, he added: “You have to go all the way down to Farnley and Wortley at number 11 before you get to an area that is not represented by Labour.
“We have a massive problem with fly tipping all over the city, and one of the main causes is your tax.”
Coun Anderson’s proposed motion simply read: “This council resolves to reverse charging on bulky and inert waste with immediate effect.”
According to the rules, charges are made for disposal of building waste of between £2.60 and £4.80 per 25-litre bag. Disposal of tyres is charged at £1.50 per tyre.
Seconding Coun Anderson’s motion, Green Party group leader Coun David Blackburn said: “We should not be charging because in the long run it is costing us more and it is making our city a mess.”
Responding to Coun Anderson’s motion, Labour submitted an amendment attacking central government cuts, concluding: “Council requests a future executive board paper to consider evidence of effective measures to reduce waste crime.”
Supporting the amendment, the council’s executive member for environment Coun Mohammed Rafique claimed the council had employed more than 30 environmental officers, and that recycling rates had recently doubled, while the council offered free green waste collections.
He added: “This argument that reversing the charges will make the problem go away – Liverpool, which doesn’t charge for bulky waste collections – per head has a bigger fly tipping problem than Leeds.”
Leader of the Garforth and Swillington Independents group Coun Mark Dobson said: “If something fundamentally isn’t working, I don’t think anybody would be able to cry foul if this disappeared.
“We are unable to say what the savings have been in terms of the uplift in fly tipping. We are asking for an evidence based approach – and until we do that, we can’t make a sensible decision.”
Leader of Leeds Lib Dems, Coun Stewart Golton said: “If you are not going to make any decisions of your own, and you think everything is down to government cuts and there’s nothing you can do about it, then leave it to the officers.
“If you are in charge of something, you have to make decisions. These charges are decisions you have made – they have not been forced on you.”
Labour’s amendment was passed.