Friday, 22 February 2013

Rosy picture despite mounting evidence over fly-tipping

Councillors are to seek further information on fly-tipping in North Ayrshire after an official claimed the introduction of charges for special-uplifts of unwanted household items, and the requirement to have a permit to use local recycling centres in certain circumstances had produced a saving of £564,482 – despite admitting the cost of dealing with items fly-tipped had soared to £228,000.

The figures were contained in a report submitted to last week’s meeting of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee by Mr Craig Hatton, Corporate Director (Development & Environment).

According to Mr Hatton, the introduction of charges for special-uplifts had resulted in a sharp fall in such items collected by the Council.  This, the official said, had produced a “significant reduction in the number of requests received and a commensurate reduction in the weight of material collected from 2,919 tonnes in 2009/10 to a projected weight of 1,300 tonnes in 2012/13.”

Mr Hatton indicated this “has enabled a reduction in collection resources of £97,425, a reduction/avoidance of processing costs and landfill tax, at current rates of, £86,940, whilst realising income of £82,351 in 2011/12 equating to a total of £266,716.”

When added to ‘cost savings’ resulting from fewer items being dumped at North Ayrshire’s recycling centres since the introduction of the permit system, Mr Hatton claimed “the total cost saving and avoidance following introduction of the new service and controls is £564,482.”

 Elsewhere in the Corporate Director’s report, it was recorded that fly-tipping across North Ayrshire is removed by members of six rapid-response teams within the local authority’s Streetscene Operations.  Mr Hatton said the teams removed fly-tipped items on a day-to-day basis, and that “approximately 60 percent of their time is taken up dealing with fly-tipping”.  At other times the rapid-response teams were tasked with removing graffiti, responding to unforeseen environmental issues, picking-up litter dropped in shopping areas within housing schemes and servicing litter bins in those areas.

The senior official told councillors that “labour and transport costs incurred in deploying the rapid response teams have been calculated at approximately £198,000 per annum.”

During a six-month period when fly-tipping was monitored by the Council in preparation of the report for the Scrutiny Committee, Craig Hatton said there were “648 requests for service” made through the Council’s customer service system, but that there had actually been “1,531 instances of fly tipping” removed, which represented “238 tonnes of fly tipping material”.  This, said Mr Hatton, resulted in a disposal cost of £15,232.

The official stated his calculations showed the total annual cost to the Council of fly tipping was “approximately £228,000”.

With regard to the introduction of permits to use recycling centres, primarily where a small van or trailer was being used, Mr Hatton said this had resulted in “the amount of residual waste managed at these centres [falling] from 16,820 tonnes in 2010/11 to a projected total of 11,275 in 2012/13”.  The Corporate Director added, “This reduction has, at the current contract processing cost and landfill tax rate, enabled annual cost savings and avoidance of £297,766.”  However, Mr Hatton then admitted that “It is likely this is mainly attributable to commercial waste generators using disposal sites in other areas,” such as facilities operated by other councils.

In conclusion, Craig Hatton’s report stated, “The Council provides a number of services to deter fly-tipping within the area, works with a number of partners to minimise fly-tipping within the area and utilises enforcement powers where sufficient evidence is available.   The analysis has identified that the cost savings and avoidance associated with charging for the special uplift service and introduction of controls at HWRC's [Council-run recycling centres] greatly exceeds the costs of collecting fly-tipping.”

However, councillors then spoke of their own experience in dealing with fly-tipping in the areas they represent.  Committee convener, Ardrossan Independent councillor John Hunter, backed-up his anger over increased fly-tipping in the local area by passing-round 16 photos showing individual instances of items fly-tipped within a relatively short distance of each other in Ardrossan.

Previously, Cllr Hunter backed his Independent colleague Ronnie McNicol when the Saltcoats & Stevenston member called for the removal of charges for special-uplifts.  Cllr McNicol indicated his belief that fly-tipping had escalated as a problem since the charges were introduced.  At the same time – the Council’s budget meeting of February 2012 – Saltcoats & Stevenston SNP councillor Willie Gibson asked that a review also be carried out into the use of permits at recycling centres.  Cllr Gibson is now the Leader of North Ayrshire Council.

SSP: Fight back against the bedroom tax

The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is calling for a united fight-back against plans by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government to introduce cuts to Housing Benefit.

Already SSP activists have been campaigning with street stalls in local town centres, including Saltcoats.  Now the party is to hold a public meeting in North Ayrshire to help organise against proposals being called the ‘bedroom tax’.

The SSP’s North Ayrshire Organiser, Richie Venton, said, “This is the new Poll Tax.  Tory millionaires in mansions are telling people in modest homes that they have too many rooms.  Tenants in towns like Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston could lose between £12 and £30 per week when the Tories and Lib Dems implement cuts to Housing Benefit.”

The UK Government intends to cut benefits for anyone who has what they consider to be an extra room.  This could hit local people who have raised their family in a house only to be punished because children have grown and moved-out.  With few one-bedroom properties available in North Ayrshire, there is little chance of being able to move to a smaller home to avoid a considerable reduction in income.

Richie Venton said, “People already on poverty-level incomes could now face eviction.”

The SSP North Ayrshire meeting against the ‘bedroom tax’ will be held in the Vineburgh Community Centre, Quarry Road, Irvine at 7:30pm on Wednesday, February 27.  “It’s time to get organised,” said Richie Venton.  “We need to join with other local people in fighting back.”

Of the public meeting, Mr Venton said, “I would ask everyone to come along.  If these proposals don’t directly affect you, chances are they will affect a member of your family or some of your friends.

“Let’s not forget, the Tories and Lib Dems have no mandate in Scotland for these cuts.  The people of Scotland rejected them at the ballot box, but just as they did with the hated Poll Tax, they are attempting to impose their will on us.  They are imposing savage cuts on some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, while at the same time reducing the level of tax paid by millionaires.”

Richie Venton will be one of the speakers at the SSP public meeting on February 27.  Mr Venton said, “Please attend the meeting.  We need to get organised to resist the bedroom tax and to fight shoulder-to-shoulder to scrap it.”

Other local politicians have also spoken-out against the bedroom tax.  North Ayrshire & Arran Labour MP Katy Clark said, “It is completely unacceptable that thousands of families living in social housing in North Ayrshire will lose on average £520 a year.  I am particularly concerned for the 900 households who will see their housing benefit cut by 25 percent.”

Ms Clark pointed out the proposed UK Government changes will see a reduction in benefit for 23,000 Scottish households with a disabled member.  “In addition,” said Ms Clark, “families of serving members of armed forces who live at home will also be hit by this change.  What is particularly unfair is that many families have no choice but to live in accommodation with additional rooms.  Groups such as the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations have been pointing out that in some areas the housing stock simply is not there.  North Ayrshire is one of the areas where there is a mismatch in housing.  To put it simply, we do not have enough one-bedroom properties, so lots of people are staying in homes that the Government technically believes are too big for them.” 

SNP MSP Margaret Burgess also highlighted the impact the bedroom tax will have on armed services personnel.  The MSP for Cunninghame South said, “Westminster’s bedroom tax is already set to hit many families in my constituency and across Scotland, but it is shocking that veterans are one group that is likely to be particularly affected.

“When our servicemen and women have courageously served their country, the very least they should expect in return is support when they leave service and return to civilian life.

“But Westminster’s welfare cuts, including the introduction of the bedroom tax, only threaten to undermine this, and threaten to make adjusting to life outside the armed forces substantially more difficult.”

Horrific smash kills woman and closes A78

A shocking crash that saw a Heavy Goods Vehicle smash into housing in Fairlie’s Main Road has closed the A78 trunk road on the North Ayrshire coast.

Strathclyde Police have confirmed that 55-year-old Catherine Bonner died on Thursday (February 14) when a lorry carrying coal from Hunterston smashed into her ground-floor home.  Mrs Bonner’s 60-year-old partner remains in Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock.  The 54-year-old lorry driver was released from the same hospital following treatment for minor injuries.

As police investigations continue into the cause of the crash, the A78 remained closed (Friday, February 15), with diversions set-up northbound at the Hunterston roundabout, and in a southbound direction at the Haley Brae (A760) on the outskirts of Largs.

The narrow stretch of road through the village of Fairlie has long been considered by locals as unsuitable for Heavy Goods Vehicles.  Fairlie Community Council has consistently called for a by-pass to be created around the village, but such requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Following the crash on Thursday, Mr Steve Graham, chairman of Fairlie Community Council, said, This was an accident waiting to happen.

“There have been a number of near misses in the past, but nothing on this scale. It is a very narrow road with premises adjacent to the road.”

Referring to the Community Council’s previous calls, Mr Graham said, “We have complained about the weight of traffic coming through the A78, which it's not built for.  It would not meet current standards for a trunk road.”
On Friday (February 15), Strathclyde Police co-ordinated the removal of the Heavy Goods Vehicle, which had lodged in the Main Road building.  As darkness fell, a Police spokesperson confirmed the ground-floor had been “seriously damaged” and that the block of four flats was “deemed to be structurally unsound.”

Licence refused - 'over-provision' of off-sales in Ardrossan

Some residents of an Ardrossan street breathed a sigh of relief last week when North Ayrshire Licensing Board refused an application to operate an off-sales from a local convenience store.

The Board had received a number of objections from people living close to the shop in Rowanside Terrace, which resulted in consideration being given to whether or not a further outlet selling alcohol was needed in Ardrossan.

Nicedays Stores Limited, whose headquarters is listed as Dalmellington in East Ayrshire, applied for a licence to operate an off-sales from their store in the residential area.  However, a Rowanside Terrace resident who spoke to the3towns claimed this was “the last thing we need”.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, set-out his objections, “We all know the problems that can be associated with off-sales selling alcohol.  Look at other shops in Ardrossan, youngsters hang around looking for older ones to go in and buy their carry-outs for them.

“This is a nice area, we don’t need an off-sales and the problems that go with them.”

Another nearby resident said he objected to the off-sales because of problems he had experienced in another part of Ardrossan in the past.  The man said, “I used to live in Ashgrove Road and the shops there were a magnet for youths and anti-social behaviour, particularly because the flats above the shops created an overhang and gave protection from the wind and rain.  That’s the same situation we have in Rowanside Terrace.  If they had granted the licence it would only have caused problems for people in the area.”

However, the Licensing Board’s decision to refuse the application from Nicedays Stores Limited was based on the position that there was already an ‘over-provision’ of off-sales in Ardrossan.  Board members heard there were already eight retail premises in the town with off-sales licences, including four north of Eglinton Road and Parkhouse Road.