Local authorities slammed over waste disposal fees for charities

The Association of Charity Shops has stepped up its campaign to prevent charity shops being wrongfully charged for waste disposal by condemning the "disgraceful" behaviour of several local authorities in England.

The association has mounted a press campaign to try to persuade Birmingham, Norwich and Southampton city councils, as well as several district councils in Hampshire, to stop charging charity shops for both collection and disposal of waste.

The Environment Protection Act classifies charity shop waste as household waste, which means that councils should not charge for its disposal. The association estimates the average annual bill for disposal at around £400, roughly doubling a shop’s waste bill.

David Moir, head of policy and public affairs at the association, said Birmingham City Council had responded to large numbers of phone calls and emails from the association with delaying tactics.

“It took six months for officials to review their policy,” he said. “Change was first promised at the end of last year, but despite repeated promises that the cabinet member would be considering changes, charity shops in Birmingham are still being overcharged. This is disgraceful and is made worse by the fact that Birmingham holds Beacon status for its relationship with the voluntary sector, yet feels free to exploit charity shops.”

He said he had written to Norwich City Council last year and phoned on many occasions but had received no reply, and two letters to Southampton City Council last year had resulted only in a promise to review the council’s policy. “That was over a year ago – despite chasing from us, we have heard nothing,” Moir added.

He said Eastleigh, Fareham and Winchester district councils also charged for disposing of charity shop waste, while Gosport Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council referred charities to outside contractors.

Last month, Third Sector Online reported that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs would be writing to every local authority chief executive about the issue. However, Moir said a similar letter from Defra last year had had only a limited effect. “There may be some gains from the letter, but we have been campaigning for a year and we feel that route has reached its limit,” he said.

The association singled out Birmingham, Norwich and Southampton councils because they are large authorities with significant numbers of charity shops, he said.

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