in Politics

Fly tipping: the council’s fault?

The council's fault? (In this case probably yes, it's a pile of rubbish collected together to make a single collection point.)

Several weeks ago I posed the question does the council actually hinder people doing the right thing? The example offered publicly in the comments (and by email from someone else) was on our policy of charging to collect bulky items.

I’ve never been directly involved in our refuse policy. But I’m not afraid of idly speculating to cover my ignorance, so I’ll carry on regardless.

Obviously the council is aware that by charging, we run the risk of people fly tipping. There is, to use the economic term, price elasticity. Some people won’t pay, and will fly tip whatever the price (and some even if it were free). Most people will pay if it’s a reasonable amount, but as the fee increases so does the proportion of people who will just dump their rubbish illegally. The judgment is where that price covers the cost of the service (or as much as possible) without seeing the income wiped out by increased fly tipping.

But moving on from the charge, I think there are valid points in the comment about the complex rules surrounding waste collection:

Now does the previous owner’s dismantled desk that they left in our cellar count as 1 piece of furniture, or should i saw it up into 3 standard sized sacks? And if i did would they still weigh less than 25kg and how would I even know? What about the spare kitchen cabinet panels, scraps of carpet or broken pane of glass? It makes my head hurt!

Wouldn’t 1 fee be easier? Or small/medium/large collection fee? Or 1-yearly free collection?

Also when people try to do the right thing and then can’t find the information they’re looking for on the council website because it’s rubbish, I’d say that stops good behaviour.

It is, I think, a consequence of a bureaucracy (a word I always use neutrally) that it is rule-bound and, therefore, tends to think everyone and thing else is rule-bound. What’s the betting those rules are there because there restrictions on lifting heavy items? So, we have to protect our staff and contractors from potential injury and do that by passing on the rule to the resident, never thinking that many people have no way of weighing heavy items.

Going further, I wonder why we are even collecting a lot of bulky items. When we tried to dispose of a fridge we paid the bulky collection fee only for someone to steal it from our garden the day before collection. I know the fridge itself had no value as a fridge (I’d even managed to pull one of the doors off when removing it) so can only guess it had some scrap value. Why aren’t we investigating whether scrap merchants would consider taking on some of these collections for us? Or charities? Despite frowning on their use of chuggers the British Heart Foundation in Wandsworth will collect furniture and electrical items for resale in their shops.

However, when you look at the council’s page on using others it manages to contain, within five bullet-points, two references to prosecution, the need to check (with another agency) waste collection registration and the potential need for advance authorisation to take things to the tip. Not something that encourages alternative disposal methods!

And finally, I sometimes wonder if we are too good at clearing up. There are a few fly tipping hot-spots in my patch and, speaking to officers, discovered that, at times, they collect daily from them. But what impact does this have? Residents might appreciate the clean streets, they might be impressed that the dumping they see in the morning removed by the evening. But might they also think that next time they have something they need to get rid of there’s an easy route? Some might not even realise it isn’t a legitimate service!

I once suggested that we just stop collecting for a week, to see what happens. We’d tell everyone that’s what we were doing, and then use the accumulated rubbish as an example: it isn’t just for the council to remove the rubbish, it’s also for people to stop dumping it, and pass on information when they see others doing it.

Increasingly I’m seeing the way the council should operate is not as a service provider, but as a party to a contract. In this example, we agree to keep the streets as tidy as we can, and residents agree not to dump rubbish and help us find those that do. We could even bring in others, like the BHF, to play their part and give them opportunity to raise money. There are huge areas of life where residents, business and charities, as well as the council, all could have a role to play if we moved away from a simple service delivery model and towards a mature relationship where we all recognised the part we play, effectively a Wandsworth contract. Would you sign it?

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  1. Yep,I realised after spending too long thinking about it that actually the council had succeeded in my circumstances.

    After all the council is not trying to be a successful refuse collecting company. They don’t profit by collecting my rubbish. They just don’t want flytipping. And by putting me off with their evil pricing they’ve saved themselves the hassle of collecting some rubbish with no downside since I’m never going to ‘flytip’. It’s illegal.

    Instead I will one day hire a company who specialise in this and are probably cheaper. Or leave it for the next owner..

    To determine the price elasticity they need to talk to people who do flytip; my opinion is irrelevant. However I’m glad you agree about How they implement the prices.

    Regarding a contract I wouldn’t sign it because I don’t need to; I have a conscience that holds up my side of the bargain and makes me (try) to be a good citizen. However I’m not convinced that the conscience of an organisation is as strong as that of the individual, therefore the council would be more likely to break it (and even if an organisation has a conscience, it has little of the follow-up guilt when it does fail its citizens).

    One thing this made me think of (might have read it here?) is what it means to be a good citizen – e.g. people used to grit the pavement in front of their homes – now they grit their paths and moan at the council about the pavement. Could be a generation thing – I’ve never used the grit box things and wouldn’t be sure that I’m even allowed to. Genuinely not sure what they’re for…

    But better communication and mutual understanding between council & citizens about things like this would strengthen everyone’s role and the council citizen relationship. A bit like a contract…

  2. AS MY NEIGHBOUR 172 MACDONALD ROAD LIGHTWATER, APPROX 100 TONS HAS ARRIVED. CAUSED SERIOUS INJURIES. WITH EMERGENY TO FIMLEY PARK HOSPITAL. NOW LARGE BLACKBAGS OF KITCHEN
    WASTE. RIPPED OPEN BY LOCAL DOGS, FILTH ALL OVER THE PLACE. AS I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR CLEARING THE MESS, WHAT HELP CAN I GET. RGDS SINGLE SNR PENSIONER.

    • Unfortunately I’m unable to respond directly, but in case you read follow up comments I would say I am not in a position to help as I’m a councillor in the London Borough of Wandsworth and from the address you give I think you live in an area covered by Surrey Heath District Council.

      I would suggest your best option would be to contact Surrey Heath Council directly.

      Their contact details are:

      Surrey Heath Borough Council
      Surrey Heath House, Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3HD
      Tel: 01276 70710
      http://www.surreyheath.gov.uk

      Alternatively, you might want to contact your councillors directly.

      I think (but cannot be certain) from looking at the website they are:

      Cllr. Ian Bell
      Tel 07815 072938
      Email Ian.Bell@surreyheath.gov.uk

      Cllr. Timothy Dodds
      Tel 01276 479171
      Email tim.dodds@surreyheath.gov.uk

      Cllr. Surinder Gandhum
      Tel 01276 472117
      Email surinder.gandhum@surreyheath.gov.uk

      I hope this helps and you can get your problem resolved.

      Regards,

      James.

      •  Thank you James. Its being going on for 11 years. 100 tons plus. POLICE NOR COUNCIL interested. They just say move it. Have been doing for many years. Now after injury moving it (a cripple ) can neither physically nor finacially afford to move it. Have told the council it can just pile up. I am 80 +ex military. The enemy did not cripple me but my neighbour has done so.  

  3. 4 YEARS SO FAR TO GET MY FENCE ENCROACHING NEIGHBOUR PARTIALLY OFF LARGE PARTS OF MY GARDEN . HE MOVES HIS CONCRETE FENCE POSTS WHILST I AM AWAY.  ALSO LAYING TOTALLY ILLEGAL FOUNDATIONS THEN BUILDING ON THEM.  THE COUNCIL,  SAYS MOVE THEM. LOANED A BULLDOZER  BUT THE FOUNDATIONS BUILT SO DEEP THE REAR OF THE BULL DOZER  JUST COMES UP IN THE AIR.  
    NOW  CONCENTRATING  A CLAIM AGAINST HIS 100 TONS OF MY NEIGHBOURS AUTHORISED FLY TIPPING,  WHICH HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR 11 YEARS.  PLUS TONS OF TOXIC FLUID SOAKING INTO MY LAND WHICH IS A WATER CATCHMENT AREA FOR LIGHTWATER.  ITS CONSEQUENT EFFECTS, AS YEARS GO BY.. THE LITIGATION SHOULD START ON 18.07.11 BUT HIS SOLICITOR  IS OVERLOADED, REPRESENTING HIM..  SHE DOES NOT ANSWER MY  EMAILS ANY MORE CHECKING IF SHE FREE ENOUGH TO ACCEPT MY CLAIM.  IN THE. MEANTIME THE FREELY DUMPED TOXIC FLUID WILL WILL EVENTUALLY  SHOW ITS EVIL FACE. A .CHILD PLAYING IN THIS PTO & WATER CATCHMENT  AREA COULD BE  BLEEDING FROM A CUT ON THE RAT URINATED RUBBISH & TOXIC SOIL ETC  .INJURED UNABLE TO MOVE HIDDEN IN THE  UNDERGROWTH , JUST AS I WAS, BUT. LUCKILY I HAD A BELT ON & A MOBILE. & RUSHED TO FRIMLEY PARK HOSPITAL. NOW CONSEQUENTLY A CRIPPLE FROM TRYING TO REMOVE JUST ONE OF MANY KITCHEN UNITS.  A RUSTY OLD WASHING MACHINE. ALL ORDERED TO BE REMOVED BY THE COUNCIL.        . RGDS SENIOR SINGLE PENSIONER.                       NB IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD DO TO PROPERTY PRICES OR IF  PARENTS IN THE LOCALITY KNEW THIS DEADLY FILTH IS BEING DUMPED IN AN AREA THEIR CHILDREN PLAY, MAKING DENS  OUT OF THIS DANGEROUS RUBBISH.  I HAVE ERECTED LARGE CLEAR SIGNS INDICATING THE DANGER AND AS MANY CHILDREN CARRY MOBILES & IF INJURED CALL 999 IMMEDIATELY. CHILDREN ON THE WEEKENDS HOLD SMOKING PARTIES ON LAND COVERED IN PINE NEEDLES & BUSH. WHILST LOCAL DOGS TEAR APART LARGE BLACK BAGS OF KITCHEN WASTE THROWN OVER MY REAR FENCE FROM THE LIGHTWATER COUNTRY PARK CAR PARK .

  4. If anybody is interested, my neighbour authorised fly tipping on my garden 11 years ago..still awaiting
    Enviromental dept to help charge my neighbour of criminal activities.