Some councils had begun to charge landlords of students in privately rented accommodation blocks for waste services despite the Valuation Office Agency legally determining that these are domestic residences and students being exempt from council tax.
In a joint letter to all local authorities, ministers from the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs highlight how forcing the cost of waste collection onto landlords, and subsequently onto students, to try and raise incomes could lead to a rise in fly-tipping and illegal dumping of waste that could, perversely, leave the councils financially worse off in the long run due to clean up costs.
This style of so called ‘backdoor’ bin charging goes against the intentions of the regulations that allow for local authorities to charge for the collection and disposal of waste from a wider range of non-domestic properties than before. Such charges should not be made on blocks of privately rented student accommodation and ministers have made clear that they are prepared to legislate if councils insist on continuing these exploitative charges.
Mr Pickles said:
Sneaky councils attempting to make a quick buck by charging landlords of hard-up students for their bin collection is the worst form of short-term thinking. The subsequent increase in fly-tipping and backyard burning could cost them more in the long run and undermine community relations.
Instead of using students as a revenue generator, local authorities should be working with them to improve recycling rates and building community cohesion.
Lord de Mauley said:
These councils need to think again. I would ask them to work with students, communities and each other to reduce waste and encourage more recycling.
Councils run the risk of fly-tipping and illegal dumping, not to mention large clean-up costs which could cost them more in the long run.
There are more than 2.5 million students enrolled in the United Kingdom’s 164 universities. Full-time students do not pay council tax because of the student disregard under the Local Government Finance Act which waives their tax liability. Councils are compensated via the Local Government Finance system for having a student population, to make up for not receiving council tax revenues.
The government is also abolishing unfair and arbitrary council bin fines through the Deregulation Bill, introducing a new harm to local amenity test.
The government legislated to abolish bin taxes via the Localism Act 2011.
The Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have previously issued a joint letter to local authorities to prevent them charging residents for bin bags.
See the letter to local authority Chief Executives.