Labour waging war of attrition in opposition to recycling

20 Feb 2023

Leeds Liberal Democrats have likened their demand for investment in recycling to a ‘war of attrition’ with the Labour administration in Leeds.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Stewart Golton, said: 

“Year on year we show the ruling Labour Group where they could find the money to invest in recycling and reducing waste, only for them to reject our budget amendments as barmy or unaffordable. However, several months later you find they’ve accepted one of our suggestions after all!”

Last year saw a U-turn by Leeds City Council to cancel their charges for bulky waste collection, and now this year the Labour Group have finally agreed to trial the introduction of doorstep glass recycling collection, after voting against Lib Dem proposals calling for it on an annual basis.

“Our bottle bank collection system is an anachronism of grotty, litter strewn drop off points at the farthest corner of a badly lit supermarket carpark. It must have finally hit home to the Labour leadership that if they want to create a car free city you can’t rely on a system of glass recycling that discriminates against people without a car.

We’ve now won two battles, and if we are to win the war to deliver the environmental ambitions of Leeds families, our duty is to keep making the case.”

Leeds Liberal Democrats hope that the Labour-run authority might be starting to listen to criticism of its worsening recycling record. They hope that, after multiple attempts, Liberal Democrat proposals for citywide food waste collection, and cancelling waste disposal charges might finally be accepted by the ruling Labour Group at this week’s Annual Budget Meeting.

Leeds Liberal Democrats are concerned by the lack of ambition in the City’s waste strategy, and the worsening reputation of the city due to its deteriorating recycling rate, and hope that their ‘recycled’ strategy will get the go ahead to put Leeds back at the top of the recycling league.

The most recent statistics from the Local Government Association on waste managed by local authorities showed an improving situation in England during 2020/21, with less waste going to landfill, and more food waste being collected, despite Covid pressures, with Cllr Darren Rockwell, LGA Environment Spokesperson saying:

“These figures are testament to the hard work of councils in maintaining levels of recycling and diverting millions of tonnes of waste from going to landfill, especially during the pressures of lockdown restrictions, and demonstrate that the current waste collection system is working well. In particular, it is great to see the work Councils are doing with residents to increase correct food waste disposal, with food waste collections up by 11%.”

However, this national performance improvement is in sharp contrast to our experience in Leeds.

“Instead of increasing by 11%, food waste collection has reduced by 100% thanks to the Council cancelling the food waste collection service in Rothwell, which was shamefully still officially a ‘pilot’ after operating for over a decade without the Labour group having the ambition to expand the service citywide. It’s now been for over a decade that the Liberal Democrats have been proposing at every Council Budget Meeting the expansion of food waste collection across the city, so you can’t fault us on consistency and determination! Our proposals for an anaerobic digester to treat the city’s food waste will also contribute to the city’s energy security by generating cheap sustainable power that could be fed into the grid or power up council vehicles.”

The council’s cancellation of food waste collection has contributed to its already worsening recycling rate, being one of the few remaining councils to recycle less than 40% of its waste.

“In 2023 to have a recycling rate of 39% is shameful, and a poor reflection on a city population that has real recycling ambition, and needs the Council to step up and enable every household to do their best. We also need to recognise that household finances are under pressure too:

 How inappropriate and counterproductive is it to expect a resident on a limited income who wants to manage their waste responsibly to pay for a replacement bin? Our amendment will cancel those charges. 

“The Labour regime last year recognised the false accounting of ignoring the soaring costs for the increased flytipping the city has suffered, and realised we couldn’t afford not to abolish bulky waste charges. However, if we are really to win the war on flytipping, we must also abolish the DIY Tax imposed on Leeds residents since the Council chose to charge people for bringing home improvement inert waste to council tips. That is why we are repeating our amendment again this year to have these charges abolished.”

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