LGA Response to Defra consultation on reforming the Carrier, Broker, Dealer regime

Defra’s approach to the reforms must be robust enough to discourage the criminals, but avoid placing excessive requirements on local authorities, charities and the not-for-profit sector and responsible private waste businesses.


About the Local Government Association (LGA)

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.

Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Key messages

(a) The reforms to the Carrier, Broker and Dealer regime will run in parallel with other significant changes to waste and recycling services, such as the reform of Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging (EPR). Councils must have clarity on the timetable for implementation across the full set of reforms.

(b) Defra’s approach to the reforms must be robust enough to discourage the criminals, but avoid placing excessive requirements on local authorities, charities and the not-for-profit sector and responsible private waste businesses.

(c) Enforcement needs to be properly thought out and funded. An independent study in 2021 estimated that around 238,471 unregistered businesses and individuals could be transporting waste in England. Bringing them into a new system of regulation would add significantly to the workload of the Environment Agency.

(d) These proposals, along with the introduction of mandatory waste tracking, are intended to tackle persistent waste crime such as fly-tipping (National waste crime survey report 2021: findings and analysis, Chief Scientist's Group report). Defra should go further and consider other measures. Councils will use their powers to prosecute criminal gangs who are making easy money out of fly-tipping but the burden of proof is high, and offenders are often let off with paltry fines that are little more than a slap on the wrist. We need an urgent review of sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping.

Responding to the consultation

Our response focuses on the proposals most relevant to local authorities.

Environmental permitting

Question 4: Do you agree or disagree with our proposal to bring the current CBD regime under the environmental permitting regulations?

The current system of registration for waste carriers, brokers and dealers needs to be reformed. It is too easy for unscrupulous operators to obtain a licence to carry waste.

We support the proposal to bring the current carriers, brokers and dealers’ regime under the environmental permitting regulation. The focus of the new system must be on regulating private waste operators, rather than creating bureaucracy for local authorities and the charity and not-for-profit sectors.

Question 8: Do you agree or disagree that it should be a permit condition to show a permit number on advertising?

We support this proposal. As we go on to say on the “duty of care” we welcome the commitment to raise public awareness on the correct and lawful handling of waste. Requiring a permit number on advertising would be helpful in supporting that aim.

Question 9: Do you agree or disagree that it should be a permit condition to clearly display permit numbers on any vehicle used for the collection and transport of waste?

We support this proposal. Householders need a quick and easy process to to check that they are giving their waste to a legal operator. This will also help regulatory enforcement to undertake quick checks.

Criminals may seek to undermine legitimate businesses by cloning their permit details. Defra may wish to give further thought to ensuring that permit numbers can only be obtained and displayed by reliable waste businesses.

Enforcement

It is good that Defra are looking at stronger enforcement powers for the Environment Agency. According to the National Waste Crime Survey “the size of financial gain combined with low likelihood of being caught are perceived to be the key drivers of waste crime”. The penalties for non-compliance must be strong enough to ensure that waste business follow the new procedures.

The regulators must be properly resourced to carry out enforcement action. We seek reassurance from Defra that creating new responsibilities for the Environment Agency would not take resources away from enforcement action against other types of waste and environmental crime, for example tackling large scale fly-tipping and organised criminal activity.

Requirement to register for the new permit to operate

Question 15: Do you agree or disagree that charities/voluntary groups operating as a non-profit sector should be able to operate under a non-registered exemption?

Agreed. It is important that charities and the non-profit sector understand their legal obligations in handling waste. It may be helpful to extend any awareness campaigns on “duty of care” to the charity sector so that they have clear, easily accessible information on their responsibilities.

Question 16: Do you agree or disagree that local authority waste collection and regulatory authorities should be able to operate under a non-registered exemption?

We agree that waste disposal and collection authorities operating within their statutory remit should have a non-registered exemption from the requirement to register under a reformed permit system for waste carriers, brokers and dealers.

It is right that the focus should be on tackling criminal activity from unscrupulous private operators and individuals. Local authorities are carrying out a statutory duty in collecting household waste and there is no advantage in requiring them to register for a permit to operate. This would add cost and bureaucracy for councils when they are already working hard to make their services transparent and accountable to residents.

Question 17: Do you agree or disagree that charities operating a chargeable, commercial service should be required to apply for the relevant standard rules permit?

Charities play an important role in re-use and the circular economy and they are not the perpetrators of waste crime. We support a full exemption for charity and voluntary organisations. As for Question 15, this would benefit from clear communication on the legal responsibilities for charities operating a waste service.

Question 18: Do you agree or disagree that waste disposal and collection authorities operating on a commercial basis should be required to apply for the relevant standard rules permit?

By law councils are required to act as collector of “last resort” for waste from businesses. Some areas are poorly served by private waste companies and rely on councils to collect business waste, for example in rural areas where it is not profitable to collect small amounts of waste from businesses dispersed over a wide area. In recognition of these challenges, councils have any exemption from charging VAT on commercial waste services.

We do not agree that councils providing waste collection services to businesses should be required to require a full permit. The reasoning set out in the consultation paper is that councils should have a full permit so that they are on a level playing field with private waste businesses. However, this ignores the needs of businesses, and particularly smaller businesses who may not be able to find an affordable service from the private sector. A non-registered exemption from the standard permit would be consistent with the intent of the VAT exemption for commercial waste services operated by councils.

Duty of Care

Councils understand the critical role that householders play in tackling waste crime. The S.C.R.A.P campaign is designed to educate members of the public about waste crime and how to avoid criminals posing as legitimate waste operators. The campaign was developed by the Hertfordshire Fly-Tipping Partnership, and it has been adopted by many other councils.

It is good that the role of the public is recognised in the consultation paper and Defra should set out plans for a national communications campaign. Increasing the public’s vigilance will make it harder for criminals to pose as legitimate waste businesses.

Defra may wish to go further and consider banning cash payments between householders and waste removal firms. This would make it considerably harder for criminals to operate under the radar and avoid scrutiny by the regulators.

Contact

Hilary Tanner, Adviser, Local Government Association

Email: hilary.tanner@local.gov.uk