Edinburgh council chiefs accused of abandoning pledge to reintroduce free bulky uplifts

Council chiefs have been accused of dumping a pledge to bring back free bulky uplifts to help tackle fly-tipping in the Capital.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 4:55 am

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The SNP’s manifesto at the last council elections in 2017 promised to scrap charges for collecting unwanted large items such as furniture and carpets. And the policy was among the coalition commitments agreed by SNP and Labour councillors when they formed the administration.

But just six months away from the next elections, the £5 per item charge for special uplifts remains in place.

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Free bulky uplifts would aim to tackle the problem of fly-tipping Picture: Dan Phillips

And now transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes has questioned whether making them free would really make much difference to fly-tipping anyway.

Her comments came after she was challenged at the transport and environment committee by Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang. He asked whether the promise of free bulky uplifts remained a coalition commitment and why it had not happened yet.

Councillor Macinnes said the issue would be addressed in a report to come back to committee next year on the extent of the fly-tipping problem and the options to deal with it.

But she said: “There are lots of people who would make the assumption that if we introduce a free bulky uplift that automatically solves all sorts of problems, but in fact experience from other local authorities suggests it hasn't made an enormous difference to the overall performance of the city.

Committee convener Lesley Macinnes says free uplifts have not made much difference elsewhere Picture: Dan Phillips

“I think it's a topic we will come back to through this report – that's why I have asked for it, to understand whether or not it is something we should be looking at again in the future.

“If we looked at a free bulky uplift service across the city we suspect it would have an enormous operational cost to the council and that's something we clearly have to make careful decisions about.”

The council moved from a flat charge of £26 for up to six bulky items to the £5 per item rate in January 2017, which saw a fall in fly-tipping and demand for uplifts increase by 120 per cent.

And when the administration failed to make the move to a free service in 2018, council leader Adam McVey denied they were abandoning their commitment. He said at the time: "It's still there, it's still a pledge. The programme is a five-year one. Not everything will be delivered in the first year."

Councillor Lang believes there is now little doubt the pledge is being abandoned.

He said: “It is now clear that SNP councillors are dumping one of their key manifesto promises. The commitment to scrap bulky uplift charges was plastered across the SNP’s election leaflets four years ago. It seems the promise was not worth the paper it was written on.

“Scrapping these uplift charges really matters. We see cases of fly-tipping increasing year after year and our city wide recycling rates are in decline. It is why we need to scrap the household charges which make it difficult and expensive to recycle, especially for those on low incomes.

“Instead we now see SNP councillors reneging on their promise. Why should anyone believe the SNP in next year’s council election when they drop these kinds of headline commitments in office?”

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