Opinion: ‘Penny wise, definitely pound foolish’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 1st August 2021, 3:10 pm

For as long as I can remember, fly tipping has been a major problem in our city.

It’s not just private individuals, it’s clear that some firms are participating in this too. My colleagues and I have seen fly tipping sites which included everything from empty barrels of cooking oil to old refrigerators.

When the Labour Group has run free community skips, we’ve found these were incredibly popular. We can argue the merits of a consumer society, and its propensity to create products that have a limited use: for the time being, however, there is waste, and it should be collected and disposed of responsibly.

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The Labour Group has long argued that charging people to dispose of bulky waste was creating a perverse incentive: it pushed people towards fly tipping or hiring dubious waste disposal “experts” who would do it on their behalf. You would think that the evidence would show that charging to get rid of waste is only going to create costs later on, specifically those of enforcement and clear up.

However, some people never learn: we’ve recently seen an increase in the cost of collecting brown bins from £45 to £75. This is a rise of 66%.

Most people will simply pay the extra charge.

However, the incentives now have shifted: some of those who may have previously thought it wasn’t worth it, might change their minds about how to dispose of their garden waste.

This is yet another example of how the Conservative administration thinks. We all need to dispose of waste. The Conservatives don’t see this as just as an essential public service which we pay for via taxation, rather, they believe it’s an opportunity to make extra cash.

However, when you grab with one hand, you can lose what you’re holding onto in the other. In this case, the costs of clearing up fly tipping sites could very well go up. If in the end it costs more, then what was the point? But perhaps the administration merely looks at one side of the ledger and believes that’s all that matters. Given the substantial holes we already have in our budget, it’s time to admit that this approach hasn’t worked. It’s unlikely ever to work.

We should focus on limiting overall costs, rather than seeking the sugar rush of a quick profit. If the cost of disposing waste is low, then fly tipping is less attractive. If fly tipping is less attractive, we don’t have to spend money on dealing with its consequences. Overall, we come out better, and people don’t have to contend with the headache of reporting yet another site that needs to be cleaned up. Furthermore, we have a more pleasant place to live.

This is not rocket science: it merely requires a willingness to think things through to logical conclusions.

Sometimes penny wise is pound foolish. Unfortunately, I think “penny wise and pound foolish” would be as good a motto as any for this administration. Once again, it will likely cost many pounds to rectify the mistake.