By Pam, with a contribution from Joe.
Government cuts to local services are reported by the media as having no effect on front-line services. But anyone can see that government cuts to grants have done just that. It is a fallacy to think that cuts of millions of pounds can be made without having a direct effect on people’s lives. This is just one cut that affects people’s health and well-being, while the government ministers who make the decisions, live very different lives where they don’t have to be affected by the mess, smell or hazard.
Alarm bells start to ring when places of natural beauty are affected … places such as those featured in the Observer (1) on (May 22 2011). Eyesores (which just cause sore eyes for those living in rural or suburban Surrey and Sussex) have an effect on readers of national broadsheet newspapers. But to some residents living on a housing estate in an urban area, this is nothing new.
What to do with beds and sofas, of the toxic waste of both fridges and old broken tellies? BBC, Panorama (5)
Perhaps it just stays in the back garden, waiting for the council to provide collection services for bulky domestic items. Maybe that’s if you can afford to phone the council and if you have a phone with credit on it. Or perhaps someone purporting to be collecting on behalf of some national charity will offer to dispose of it. Maybe someone will offer to take it for a small fee, perhaps from the meagre pension of some little old lady who doesn’t want it sitting her back garden between the washing line and the geraniums. She has no transport and no one wants to know. Perhaps there’s an advert in the local shop window for “House Clearance”?
In such circumstances, do the items, which are no longer wanted by their original owners, get to the intended destination? No! They pick the best and dump the rest, or more succinctly: “Hump ‘em ‘n’ dump ‘em!” We all see those lay-bys with an old sofa in. They are tossed in the back of a van, driven at night to some remote place and just left, beauty spot or not.
The Observer article (1), reports on statistics :
Cash-strapped councils have raised the cost of bulky waste disposal and inflated their charges for skip permits. Between 2009 and 2010, skip permit charges in Bradford rose by 100%, in Glasgow by 89% and in Bristol and Bath by 67%. Rotherham now charges £15 for a skip permit, a 650% increase on 2005. Islington charges £63, a 186% increase, while the price of a permit in Solihull in the West Midlands rose by 213% over the same period, to £47.
One resident commented:
I think in Bristol if you were on benefits you could have one load taken away a year, in North Somerset it was £10 per large item. But as the services have been cut I doubt this is a priority.
This is all very concerning, but it should clarified that prior to 2005, there were no national statistics available. However, there is a generally increased public awareness today about social responsibility about the environment, about recycling of waste. This has not always been the case, and does not happen without investment and education. There were no facilities in the 1970s, when there was wide scale illegal tipping, for example in Birmingham. This led to legislation of Civic Amenities Act etc. (3) Legislation which was brought about by the Labour government in 1978.
Improvements were not made without investment. Make cuts now, and the cycle will start again, and cuts are being made to local authority grants by this Coalition government. The council have to decide what their priorities will be. Do they decide to provide for local collection of bulky unwanted items or do they provide old people’s homes? Do they develop free recycling facilities or provide Education Welfare Officers?
How can such decisions be made when the cost is public health or the planet? How can we put a price on our planet? We know that the Coalition government know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Mark Tami, Labour MP (Alyn and Deeside) calls for a clampdown to curb fly tipping. Mr Tami said: “I am always out and about across the area visiting residents and businesses and all too often I come across large amounts of litter from cigarette packets and cans to very large items of furniture and building waste.
“You do not have to go very far to find rubbish and waste being dumped in the alleyways of our towns to the open countryside and our villages.”
There were 697 recorded incidents of fly-tipping across Flintshire in 2010-11 at a cost of £45,026 for the county council to clear up.
Does it have to be this way? Is there an alternative? Labour must think so. We must invest in resource recovery. We must conserve our resources and preserve our planet. We need to invest. We cannot afford not to.
References and web links:
Article in Observer:
http://www.ukela.org/ United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (2)
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1978/3 Civic Amenity Legislation, 1978 (3)
The Environment Agency: Fly Tipping
Panorama: BBC, 16th May 2011 (5)