COUNCILLORS in West Cork are refusing to accept a planned massive hike in the fees for dumping domestic rubbish, which they fear will lead to more illegal fly-tipping.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) suspended standing orders at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District on Monday to discuss the charges, which were due to be introduced on February 1st.
The new rates would see the charges levied on the driver of a small van entering one of the Council’s civic amenity sites go from €3 to €10, plus €5 per bag of rubbish, and the charges for a double axle van would go from €3 to €20.
There are even higher charges in store for people with a single axle trailer, who will see the charge go from €20 to €30, while someone with a double axle trailer will see a jump from €40 to €60.
A householder with a single bag of rubbish in his, or her, car will have to pay a €4 entry fee, plus €5 per standard bag of rubbish, €10 for a large bag, or €15 for a wheelie bin.
Three members of the Municipal District – Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind), Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) and Cllr Ross O’Connell (SD) – also raised the issue at the Council’s Corporate Policy Group (CPG) on Tuesday.
Councillors will also register their protest – and call for the decision to be reversed – when they seek the suspension of standing orders at the start of the full Council meeting on Monday, February 8th.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) advised them to go in ‘all guns blazing’ because ‘people are furious about these new charges.’ He claimed the Council could ‘close the bring sites with that carry-on.’
When the Council passed the budget, Cllr Hurley said, the chief executive was to come back to the councillors with a list of charges, ‘but someone has jumped ahead’.
Cllr Deirdre Kelly (FF) said the agreement was that there would be ‘no increase on gate charges and a minimum increase on waste and it would be introduced after the first quarter in 2021.’
Cllr Collins (Ind) said the increases are going to lead to more illegal dumping.
Cllr Collins said: ‘I have been contacted several times about a massive amount of rubbish that has been dumped near a forest in vicinity of Lough Bofinna.’
He also commented on the dumping of 25, or more, black plastic bags full of refuse in a laneway near a property that has been idle for a few months.
Locals in the Bantry area have complained to The Southern Star that the rubbish on the laneway is causing an infestation of rats.
Cllr Karen Coakley (FG) said it is the workers at the recycling centres who are bearing the brunt of the backlash from the public. ‘The staff are being abused. The cost is exorbitant and people are taking it out on them,’ she said.
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) said the pay by weight system had been working well. ‘Now that there is a flat charge – no matter what size of bag you have – there is no incentive to cut down on your waste.’
Cllr Patrick Murphy said: ‘This goes away from the principle of “polluter pays”. It’s nonsense to think that a shoe box or 10 bags will cost you the same entry fee.’
Cllr O’Connell said the new fees will lead to more illegal dumping and environmental damage, but Mac Dara O h-Icí, a senior officer with the Council, said: ‘There is no proven link between charges and illegal dumping. Illegal dumping is a crime and it cannot be excused by the charges or the location,’ he added.
Cllr Collins warned that there are unlicensed operators collecting rubbish. ‘We need to hit that on the head as well,’ he said, ‘because there is a lot of stuff being collected and being dumped in remote areas and it’s only being found months down the road.’
Fianna Fáil TD, Christopher O’Sullivan described the decision as ‘counter-productive and unfair because for many small business owners their work and private vehicle is the same.’
The Cork South West Green Party has commented, saying: ‘Yet again, we are seeing charges being levied on the public when the source of the problem is with manufacturers and producers.’
Since Tuesday’s meeting of the CPG there are indications that the charges may be revised. The new charges are to be discussed again at a special meeting of the Council later this week.
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) confirmed there is a major shortfall in the Council’s budget this year, due to a drop in rates, amongst other factors, and this can be (indirectly) related to the Covid-19 crisis.