The Local Government Association has urged the government to support flood-hit local councils by ensuring they are not penalised during the clean-up effort by landfill tax on contaminated furniture and appliances.
Following the winter floods, an estimated 30,000 tonnes of goods damaged by dirty floodwater will have been sent to landfill sites, as they cannot be recycled due to concerns about contaminations in the water.
At £82 of landfill tax per tonne of waste, that equates to a bill of almost £2.5 million for flood-hit councils to pay, which the LGA argues could be better spent in supporting the people affected by the floods themselves.
Councillor Peter Box, environment spokesman for the LGA, said: “We are calling on government to allow councils to keep all of this landfill tax. This money could make a major difference in helping councils to continue their sterling work with the massive clear-up and returning households and businesses to normality.”
Allowing councils to keep this funding could be more than just generous – as many are likely to need government funding in the future, in order to restore damaged infrastructure including bridges and roads.
With repair bills expected to run into many millions of pounds, it arguably makes much more sense to allow councils to use the landfill tax money first, before any further central government funding is allocated – rather than collect the tax and then need to hand it back.
Mr Box praised the affected communities and their local authorities for their response to the flooding – and for their preparedness during the remaining weeks of the winter.
He said: “The sense of community spirit across the country and huge efforts of council staff who have worked long hours and with little rest has been inspirational. Even now, council staff are also preparing for the possibility of further severe storms to ensure the safety of residents, homes and businesses, shore up flood defences, and protect road networks and power supplies as much as possible.”
According to the LGA’s research in 2015, when 1,925 homes and workplaces were hit by flooding, there was about 1.66 tonnes of waste per property.
This included 3,200 tonnes of landfill in total, with 2,800 tonnes of household good damaged beyond repair, and 400 tonnes of freezer waste.
During the latest floods, according to updated figures, 16,464 properties were affected – 8.5 times as many as last year.
The much larger scale of the incidents, combined with a prompt response from councils, has led to more waste being removed from affected premises, including bulky furniture, carpets and large electrical goods.
As authorities work hard to clear contaminated items safely to landfill sites, so that residents and business owners can get back to normality more quickly, the landfill tax bill is an added cost at a time when they are sorely in need of support.
While it is important to support recycling wherever possible, this is a bitter pill to swallow for councils with large quantities of contaminated waste, for which there is no safe recycling method available.