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'Postcode lottery' of charges for bulky waste collections in Kent

By Chris Price

Homeowners in Kent are faced with a "postcode lottery" when it comes to paying for big items like fridges and mattresses to be removed from where they live.

Households could be charged as much as £52 to get rid of a single item in parts of the county, with other districts charging as little as £15.50 for the same service.

While some councils charge a flat rate to get rid of as many as 10 items, others charge per item sending costs through the roof for those clearing out a home.

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An analysis of bulky waste collection costs shows Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council charges the highest fee, with an initial charge of £52 for up to six items.

While Canterbury has the lowest initial charge in Kent at £15.50, this is charged per item, meaning someone getting rid of six items in the city would be charged £93.

The variation in charges has raised concerns many homeowners may be encouraged to dispose of their waste by fly-tipping.

Robin Edwards, South East director of the Country, Land and Business Association, said: "There is almost a postcode lottery of what you will be charged by your local authority in terms of getting rid of bulk waste.

"We would ask councils to look at those charges because there will be other people who would charge less than they are and it is likely those people who will take away the item for cheaper may not dispose of it in the correct manner."

Councils charge varying amounts to remove bulky waste from homes
Councils charge varying amounts to remove bulky waste from homes

Although there may be high initial charges, households can get rid of items cheaply if they get rid of several items at once.

Dartford Borough Council charges a £30 initial fee for up to 10 items, giving an average disposal price of £3 per item if a household gets rid of the full quota, the lowest potential average cost in Kent.

Meanwhile Tunbridge Wells council charges a hefty £38.40 per collection for up to four items, an average of £9.60 per item.

Mr Edwards added: "Many modern homes don't have the storage capacity for them to store a number of items.

"In Tonbridge and Malling where it's £52 for up to six items, people won't want to store the items while they build up to the maximum of six to get the best value for money.

"There is almost a postcode lottery of what you will be charged by your local authority in terms of getting rid of bulk waste..." - Robin Edwards, CLA

"Therefore, if it is disposed of incorrectly, that is, by fly-tipping, then there are impacts there on the local environment, nature, flora and forna, especially if you are disposing of a freezer or a fridge which has refrigerants in, which damage waterways and the soil around them."

Despite the large initial charge for bulky waste collections, Tonbridge and Malling residents can use a Saturday bulky waste service for free - if they can get the items to one of a number of parked refuse freighter at a number of locations across the borough.

Robert Styles, director of street scene, leisure and technical services at Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, which charges the highest initial fee in Kent, said: “The council’s fees and charges are reviewed on an annual basis with consideration given to a range of factors including the council’s key priorities, legislative guidelines, market position, demand, the cost of the service and customer feedback.

“Charges of other local authorities are taken into account but it is important to note that bulky waste collection services differ significantly between authorities both in terms of the number and type of items collected and whether any concessions are available to those that can least afford to pay.

There are concerns high bulky waste charges may encourage fly-tipping
There are concerns high bulky waste charges may encourage fly-tipping

"This council’s bulky waste charges are based on two tiers with £52 for up to six items and only £25 for up to two fridge-freezer only collections.

"The fee structure also includes a heavily reduced charge of just £10 for those residents in receipt of council tax support.”

Many council's charging structures is very complex.

Daniel Whitmarsh, a spokesman for Sevenoaks council, said: "We have a sliding scale of charges based on the number of items for collection and disposal with prices ranging from £18 for the first item up to £51 for 10 items, equating to £5.10 per item.

"The charges are set at levels to allow us to recover our costs for providing this service."

A spokesperson for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said: "Our bulky waste service means residents can have more than one item taken away per collection, full details of what can be collected can be found on the council’s website.

"The charge reflects the cost of the service and the lower council tax paid by residents in the borough. The service is free for residents on certain benefits."

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