Thursday, August 21, 2008

Government bins local democracy on rubbish

Unelected bin quangos signal more bin cuts, bin fines and bin taxes

If you think that council handling of refuse collection is sometimes bad now, as with the Corkhill prosecution by Copeland council, wait until you see how bad it gets when the Labour government abolishes the right of voters to change the refuse collection policy by voting in a new council


The small print of Government documents slipped out on Friday afternoon reveals that Labour Ministers are to move ahead with plans to end councils’ control over rubbish collections. New unelected regional quangos, called Joint Waste Authorities, are to be handed powers over household rubbish collections, the issuing of bin fines and levying unfair new bin taxes.



· New regional bin quangos: Under Government proposals, new unelected Joint Waste Authorities which will take control of rubbish collections from elected local councils. The regional quangos will have powers to impose new bin taxes, bin fines and fortnightly collections. The quangos will be staffed a new tier of regional officers, spin doctors and bin inspectors, all at taxpayers’ expense.

· Local democracy binned: In its consultation on the statutory guidance on the Joint Waste Authorities in March, the Government proposed that the bin quangos would only be able to impose bin taxes or fortnightly collections by a unanimous vote. Yet in the Government response slipped out on Friday afternoon during the summer recess, the Government have backtracked and dropped this requirement. This will mean that the bin quangos can impose such taxes or bin taxes on a locality, irrespective of the views of the elected local council.

· Direct taxation without direct representation: Ministers have admitted that the new bin charges are officially a tax. For the first time, a dangerous constitutional precedent will be set of an unelected body having the operational powers to impose and vary taxes. It is understood that such changes are being imposed by Ministers due to the lack of enthusiasm by local authorities to levy the unfair new bin taxes. So far no council has bid to participate in the bin tax pilots.

· Electorate can’t kick the rascals out: Ministers have confirmed in answers to new Parliamentary Questions that councils will not be able to leave a Joint Waste Authority – not even if the council changes control and the public votes for a change in rubbish collections at a local election. This removes the ability for the electorate to use the ballot box to change the policy of a council.



As the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:

“There is a growing public backlash against Gordon Brown’s regime of bin cuts, over-zealous bin fines and expensive new bin taxes. Yet Labour’s answer is to bin local democracy and prevent the public from having any say. I fear this will fuel public disillusionment with politics.

“This sets a dangerous constitutional precedent by having unelected, unaccountable regional quangos impose direct taxation without direct representation. Household bills will rise to bankroll a new tier of bin inspectors, regional bureaucrats and bin spin, but the public will have no say.

“Under Labour, we are witnessing the slow death of local democracy. True to form, Gordon Brown wants to force through more unfair cuts to local services and yet more stealth taxes on family homes, on top of soaring levels of council tax."

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