Row over Peterborough Conservatives free bulky waste collection pledge
Opposition politicians have criticised the Conservatives over their pledge to re-introduce free bulky waste collections if they retain power at the city council following next month’s local elections.
As revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph, the Tories have pledged to scrap the £23.50 charge which they introduced back in 2010 as part of a series of measures to tackle fly-tipping in the city.
However, the announcement has sparked criticism from councillors who pointed out that bringing back free collections had been recommended by a cross-party working group back in 2019 but never acted upon.
Councillors on the group set up by council leader Cllr John Holdich had recommended allowing households up to one collection of five items free a year, although the latest pledge from the Conservatives is to allow unlimited collections throughout the year.
Reacting to the PT article, Green Party group leader Cllr Julie Howell tweeted: “That isn’t a solution to the greater problem which is the throwaway society. It merely incentivises & encourages people to keep on buying and disposing of goods at a completely unsustainable rate. As for encouraging more white van ownership on estates where fly-tip is prevalent.”
Council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, who made the free bulky waste collection pledge on behalf of his party, replied: “Excuse the pun Julie but that is absolute rubbish! You can ignore it if you want but people do have bulky things that break and wear out that need recycling! There will no more white vans as there are already enough this just makes them legit so the public know who to trust !”
Debate also took place on Facebook where Conservative MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow championed the announcement.
He posted: “Conservatives in #Peterborough will bring in free bulky waste collections and zero tolerance for fly tippers.
“Whatever Labour say, they can’t and don’t want to match this promise. Their coalition partners will not let them.
“Local Green councillors are against cleaning up our city because they think it encourages ‘consumerism’, i.e. people buying things!
“The Greens are part of Labour’s plans for a coalition of chaos. They want Labour in charge — and will have a veto on what Labour could do.
“In Peterborough, if you vote yellow or green, I’m afraid you’ll get red... and a lot of rubbish.”
Commenting on the post, Liberal Democrat deputy group leader Cllr Christian Hogg said: “Free bulky waste collections were recommended by the cross party working group on Flytipping a couple of years ago, the Conservative Cabinet welcomed this advice and then quickly dropped it, is this history repeating itself. All enthusiastic about implementing them again only for it to be quietly dropped after the election?”
Cllr Heather Skibsted, a Labour member who has had the whip withdrawn by the party while it investigates an alleged disciplinary issue, also commented: “There was a cross party task and finish group over the past couple of years which suggested many solutions to the fly tipping issues.
“It was understood that most of the suggestions could not be implemented due to the big deficit. But now the Tories are putting this forward as their pledge. How is this possible? And of course reducing amounts of single use plastics is vitally important as well as more education. You have to look at the source of the issue as well as the solution.”
UKIP Peterborough also tweeted: “I don’t think @PeterboroughCC are going to solve the problem of the “throw-away society”. In the real world, we do need bulky waste collections. In fact they should be a permanent service, not just at election time....”
A trial of re-introducing free bulky waste collections was carried out in 2018, but the move was never made permanent after Cllr Holdich said it had made no difference to the amount of fly-tipping, with the only result being the council missed out on £40,000 from fewer paid collections.
Cllr Fitzgerald told the PT: “The group thought (in 2010) it was the right thing to do, but I didn’t and never voted for it. Times have changed and it’s time to look at this again.
“It’s my initiative but the group supports it. We need to get on top of fly-tipping.
“There will be a new group leader but this has been discussed in the group and the Cabinet and it’s something we need a gearshift on because the system isn’t working.
“It’s been on the agenda for me for 18 months. With a change coming I want to set my stall out.
“This is in response to what people tell us. They want fly-tipping stopped.
“The other parties complain about this but don’t have a solution. We have a solution.”
Other measures announced by the Conservatives to tackle fly-tipping include:
. Paying for two trained enforcement officers with the ability to carry out prosecutions alongside police
. Introducing an accredited white van scheme
. Recruiting two full-time crews to proactively find bulky waste at people’s homes and take it away
. Using money gained from criminals to help private landowners remove rubbish dumped on their properties.
On May 6, 23 of the 60 seats at the Town Hall are being contested.
The Conservatives are currently without a majority but are in power thanks to the support of the three Werrington First councillors.