by Harry Fone, Grassroots Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance
In 2018-19 there were over a million incidents of fly-tipping in England and nearly two-thirds of cases involved household rubbish. It's no surprise that council waste collection is discussed again and again on local radio stations all over the nation. Phone-ins are full of disgruntled taxpayers across the country bemoaning the reduction in bin collections by their local councils. Many are fed up with paying more council tax and seeing services reduced. Indeed, some local authorities collect rubbish only once every four weeks.
Fine, you may say. We need to encourage people to recycle more and dispose of less waste for the sake of the environment. If their bins are overflowing they can always go to the local tip. However, it’s not that simple as a growing number of councils are charging ratepayers to use their tip (also known to boring bureaucrats as a household waste recycling centre).
Local authorities have drawn up long lists of items that you will be charged for chucking away at your local tip. In Buckinghamshire, everything from artificial grass (£2.50 per roll) and bidets (£5.00 each) to greenhouse panels (£10.00 each) are part of a price list detailing 65 items which are chargeable for disposal. It’s no wonder that the press have coined the phrase, the "tip tax".
It’s no secret that councils have seen significant cuts in central government funding and many have sought alternative means of raising revenue to make up for the shortfall. The tip tax seems to be another stealthy way that councils are wringing more money out of already over taxed locals in an effort to balance the books.
Councils should be doing everything possible to encourage residents to use waste/recycling centres. Over the last five years there has been an alarming rise in the amount of fly tipping across the country. Ultimately taxpayers end up footing the bill and have to endure the blight caused to their communities. All things being equal, a tax for using the local tip will only make matters worse; unscrupulous individuals will evade fees by dumping rubbish illegally (especially if the chances of prosecution are small).
That said, it is not unreasonable for councils to charge commercial operations (indeed they already do) or those disposing of unique and potentially hazardous items. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with asking for proof of address at local tips to prevent abuse and misuse. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidise waste collections from large properties. Some may argue that those who are landscaping football pitch sized gardens or renovating voluminous homes should pay a charge. But isn’t the size of their property in part mitigated by higher council tax bills?
As I alluded to earlier, council tax has risen around 60 per cent (in real terms) across England since 1997 and it’s not popular with voters. Recent polling by the TaxPayers’ Alliance found that 83 per cent of working class voters demand a cap on council tax rises. Despite such sharp increases, many councils are pleading poverty and cutting services. All the while our research team at the TaxPayers’ Alliance unearth numerous examples of wasteful spending. Be it mayoral cars, bloated press departments and business class flights, to name just a few, local authorities are not managing our money wisely. Indeed some don’t have a good record when it comes to the very business of recycling and waste collection.
It simply isn’t fair to ask taxpayers for more and more tax, only to provide them with third-rate services. If councils insist on implementing tip taxes, they may well be worse off in the long run as increases in incidents of fly-tipping will only drain more resources and funds. Councils should clean up their act by improving efficiency and eradicating wasteful spending to ensure that local tips are free to use for the residents they are supposed to serve.