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Monday, 22 September 2014

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What services are we prepared to chuck on the tip?

This weekend marks the end of consultation over controversial plans to cut Cumbria’s recycling sites.

The county council wants to close half of the county’s 14 household waste recycling centres and reduce the opening hours of those remaining to save £2 million a year.

I wrote on this page a month ago that such a move would increase fly tipping and reduce the amount that the county recycles. This could lead to more rubbish going to landfill and the authority possibly facing fines.

I’m not the only one to think this way of saving money will backfire badly and that an alternative should be found.

But we opponents have to reckon with the consequences of our opposition.

The county council has budgeted to save £2m by closing the centres and cutting their days of operation and hours of opening. If it is not approved, how will they find that £2m? Perhaps we should make our own suggestions.

The online consultation document stretches to five on-screen pages but nowhere does it ask for our views of where the money could be saved, if it is not done by axing the rubbish tips and altering their opening times.

One key proposal as part of their cutback scheme is to introduce a charge for rubbish classed as ‘non-household waste’, which local authorities are not legally obliged to accept at recycling centres.

This includes soil, rubble, asbestos, plasterboard and car tyres. Such fees could be extended so that we would have to pay if we take our old cooker or fridge or bed to the tip. It seems fair enough, except that this is all stuff that is easily fly-tipped out of the back of a van or a car boot.

Maybe the only alternative to keeping the recycling centres is to lose something else – such as a library or a SureStart scheme, or more council jobs.

Whatever the alternative, it is obvious that the recycling centres are hugely popular and much-valued. It might be worthwhile if the council announced an extension of their consultation period which ends on Sunday and changed their questionnaire to include options of where else the £2m might be saved – and to ask us for our suggestions.

It’s all very well for us to say what we don’t want to lose, but it’s another thing to say what we are prepared to do without.

To respond to the consultation, visit www.cumbria.gov.uk or write to Cumbria County Council, English Street, Carlisle, CA3 8NA.

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