Proposed charges at Recycle Centres - What's it all about?
Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Wicklow County Council made a presentation to the Councillors in July 2022 to state that it is their intention to introduce charges at recycle centres, something that is already in place in many recycle centres across the Country.
Generally, most Councillors did not want to see these charges introduced. This decision is however not within the powers of the Councillors. It is an ‘Executive Function’.
The functions of the Local Authority are divided into 2 categories.
Reserved Function – it is the role of the Councillors to decide on Reserved Functions such as adopting the County Development Plan, adopting the Budget.
Executive Function – it is the role of the Executive (Council officials) to decide on Executive decisions such as the day to day running of the local authority.
The introductions of charges for services, such as the recycle centres is an Executive function.
Councillors expressed their views on this proposal at the time and again at the most recent Bray Municipal District meeting where it was an agenda item.
There are a number of reasons why the Council are proposing to introduce these charges, and these relate to a larger 5 Year Investment Plan on services in the County to include;
New roof and refurbishment of Bray Recycling Centre
Refurbishment including repair/replacement of roof of the Murrough Recycling Centre
Repair to roof and refurbishment in Arklow Recycling Centre
Set up a Recycling Centre in Blessington
Incorporate energy efficiency measures in all centres including photovoltaic cells/solar panels, removing use of diesel etc
Accept soft plastics in all centres
Develop Charity shop in Arklow and Murrough Centres
New Circular Economy initiatives such as Furniture upcycling, summer school book schemes etc.
Accept bulky waste like mattresses, sofas, and domestic construction waste in Arklow and Rampere and on regular occasions in other centres.
The costs of carrying out this proposal is significant. Significant financial investment is required. Capital cost will be part- funded through available grant schemes and WCC own resources. However, an ongoing income stream will be required. The Local Authority state that a small public charge will be required, and the plans will bring Wicklow in line with the other local authorities in the country in terms of funding infrastructure.
Financial Investment – so how much investment is required?
Estimated overall investment of €3m
So, what exactly is proposed? – well this has yet to be fully determined. To date the Local Authority have indicated the following.
· A small charge per visit for households
· €3 per visit would yield approx. €1million per annum
· WEEE and glass will remain free of charge
· Additional charges will apply for bulky waste and hazardous waste (to be determined)
· Additional income for Wicklow County Council ring fenced for improvement of Recycling/Waste Management Services
· Anticipated charging will commence mid 2023 when infrastructure is put in place.
On the 12th September Councillors will gather for a special meeting to finalise the County Development Plan (CDP). This has been a huge piece of work which has been ongoing for many months.
Four Councillors have proposed what is called a Section 140 motion to be heard at this special meeting, the motion is;
‘Under the powers granted to elected members by virtue of Section 140 of the Local Government Act 2001(as amended). We, the elected members of Wicklow County Council, hereby direct the Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council to continue to provide recycling services at Council Recycling Centres free of charge and to desist from including any such charge in the Wicklow County Council Budget 2023 and subsequent budgets.
We further direct that this Section 140 motion be discussed and decided as the first item on the Agenda of the meeting of Wicklow County Council to be held on Monday 12th September, 2022’
So firstly, what is a Section 140? – A Section 140 simply put, is a process where Councillors can call on the Local Authority to act in a certain way. The Act outlines the process required such as the number of signatures required, the notice period and the number of Councillors who are required to vote in favour of the 140 motion.
In order to be valid Section 140 motion, it must comply with all the provisions as set out in the legislation. There are exceptions that apply to the use of this section - one of which is that at subsection (10) a resolution under this section does not apply or extend—
(a) to the performance of any function of a local authority generally.
When such a motion is submitted, the Council will provide a legal opinion on it. The legal opinion has been provided which states that in the opinion of the Law Agent the Section 140 is invalid as it does not comply with subsection (10) of the act. This goes back to the fact that the right to make such a decision is an ‘Executive Function’.
Voting in favour of a motion which is legally unsound means that the motion could not be acted upon. This will be discussed tomorrow in detail and different views expressed.
My view on this issue is as follows;
Some people in our community will happily pay for enhanced services, some people will not want to pay no matter what extra services are available, and some cannot pay. I would like to see the Local Authority look at the proposal and poverty proof it so that we can ensure that no one is excluded from paying their part in addressing the real climate challenges we face.
The level of services we currently have available to us is far lower than other Counties and I would like to see these increased so that more items can be recycled, this will not happen without investment, and I understand that.
The roof on Bray needs to be addressed urgently, I do not want to see this facility shut down as it becomes a health and safety issue.
I will listen to the discussion tomorrow and consider the different perspectives. I will consider the vote and having listened to the discussions make a decision. That decision may be to vote in favour of the Section 140 even tough it will have no effect. People might ask, why vote at all on a motion that has no actual impact. Sometimes this is about recording your view and wanting the officials to understand the views of those you represent, the hope is that this will impact the way in which the officials decide to continue with the proposal. I’m committed to carrying out my duties and this means working always for a solution to issues. As such I will actively engage with the staff in Wicklow to ensure that as a community we can all play our role in looking after the environment and that no one is left behind, regardless of whether the Section 140 passes or not.
Please do not hesitate to give me a call if you need any further information.