The Council is chatting rubbish – How do you want your bins and recycling collected, and what to do about holiday lets?

The Council is chatting rubbish again. Or The enthralling detail of Council business…


Cornwall’s Waste Collection and Cleansing Contract Inquiry continues tomorrow at County Hall Truro, the first steps in devising a new waste strategy for Cornwall.

Or to put it another more headline grabbing way, how often would you like your bins and recycling collected?

When the inquiry was launched a month or two back some headlines suggested Cornwall was to immediately switch to fortnightly bin collections which would result in some kind of seagull apocalypse. The video of Sue James below is from that time, when the cabinet approved the inquiry.

The contract to collect Cornwall’s waste is up for grabs in 2020. It’s worth millions.

Cornwall Council’s waste and recycling contract is actually one of the largest in the country – both in terms of the number of households from which waste is collected and sheer area covered to keep the public space clean.

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For all it’s acquired boho image, Cornwall’s recycling rate is surprisingly poor – it’s one of the lowest recycling rates in the country. Each household in Cornwall produces around 990kg of waste per year. Compared to other Councils, this is not a large volume of waste, but our recycling rates reach only 36% of waste recycled.

Cornwall Council will put out a tender opportunities for businesses like Biffa, Cormac and H&A to apply for. It’s Cornish Council tax payer’s money, so what do we want for our money?


And talking about money, is everyone paying their fair share? The council don’t know how many holiday lets there are in Cornwall, and many of them are not paying a thing towards the pot. In fact Cornish Council taxpayers subsidise the holiday lets to the tune of millions. (see below)

James Sue
Cllr Sue James’ Dept leads the inquiry

Cllr Sue James, Cornwall Council cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection has said that “Reducing waste and increasing recycling is an important element of us delivering value for money. This saves money and improves efficiency and means we have to spend less time, energy and resources dealing with waste – because there is less of it in the first place”

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Cllr James said of the inquiry “This is just the start of the process, and we will be looking at best practice from other local authority areas and seeking advice from industry experts. Options will be considered by Members and a scrutiny and overview committee, which has been set up specifically to look at this strategy, to ensure this is in the interests of the people of Cornwall.

“Our concern is multiple – what’s best for the environment, is efficient and what’s best for residents. There will be lots of further discussions before any changes are considered”

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Some people are suggesting – the source of the wayward headlines – that we swap over to having weekly recycling collections and fortnightly bin collections. If the goal is to forever reduce the amount that goes into landfill or the incinerator then these are the nudges we need. Especially if food waste could also be on the household collection route.

Or just chuck everything in one bin and it gets sorted at the other end?


The inquiry is now at expert witness stage and has already heard from a delegation from Wales on how they’ve gone about it, and the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce amongst others. On 26th of Sept three representatives from the operators will give evidence – that is Biffa, Suez and Cornwall Energy Recovery Ltd.

The public’s voice is heard through the Council’s customer surveys.

Tomorrow it’ll be the turn of Peter Marsh the Environment Dept Service Director at Cornwall Council. The revenue budget for the Environment service in 2017/18 is £64.74m, with Waste at £56.99m. The capital budget is £59.25m, with Waste at £6.11m.

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And then Matthew Thomson from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. Mr Thomson’s day job is Managing Director of Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” and Chief Executive Officer of the Cornwall Food Foundation.

Matthew Thomson

The LNP Board established something called a Circular Economy (CE) Workgroup with a broad remit to consider how to fulfil Cornwall’s  Environmental Growth Strategy through the “interconnected topics of Energy, Food, Materials, Transport, and Communities”.

A key objective is to build the “culture of circularity” in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Mr Thomson’s expert evidence will include an update from this workgroup.

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The holiday let issue cropped up because of an newly created anomaly as a result of tax changes. When the second home council tax went up to 100% from the outrageous discount they used to receive, and also because of the forever extended ‘season’, many lets recently swapped to registering as businesses.

In their wonderfully helpful guide, The Complete Furnished Holiday Let Tax Guide  Sykes Cottages say “Goodbye Council Tax!”

“A self-catering accommodation which is available for short-term lettings for more than 140 days in any given year, is subject to Business Rate property tax. Since all FHL properties must be available to let for a minimum of 210 days, they fall into this category. However, this isn’t necessarily bad news as you can claim Small Business Rate Relief, which can be up to 100% (dependent on what area you are in). Therefore, goodbye to council tax!”

However now, like any other business, any waste they generate should be treated as trade waste – but we all know it’s not. How many holiday cottages near you have trade waste bins?

The council confirmed to us “Owners of self-catering properties and holiday lets are responsible for arranging for the collection and disposal of waste from those properties if they are used in the course of a business.

Any producer of commercial waste is required by law to pay for their commercial waste arrangements, rather than the waste being collected and disposed of at a cost to the Council”

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This is a known issue, it’s required by law and costing Cornish taxpayers money everyday. It’s literally a waste of money. It’s not something that should be pondered over too long in this inquiry however – it should be dealt with now. The cottage owners – especially the agencies – should be given notice to prove they have a waste contract within x amount of days or get fined.


In the worst cases, owners who now know of this anomaly tell their cleaners to dispose of the rubbish they collect into public bins. In some cases this results in hazardous piles of rubbish when the bins are full, which are then subject to further call outs, resulting in further cost to the council.

Last year’s Port Isaac trial tried to establish how many lets had trade contracts.

The trial area contained 399 properties. As a result of this work, by the end of the trial in November 2016, 171 properties are now on commercial contracts (previously just 10).

The problem is, the Council just don’t know how many lets there are in Cornwall. They admitted to us

“We don’t have any data on this total figure, the only information that we have managed to find is by using the Valuation Office Agency’s website to look up Non Domestic Rated properties from there you can find information on this.  However, this only shows data on those paying business rates.  A lot of properties that run self-catering businesses, holiday lets are rated as Council Tax, but we have no way of knowing this exact figure as the data is not captured anywhere. The figure we have for Non Domestic Rated properties that are registered as self-catering businesses in Cornwall (data from November 2016) is 7,325”

Research by Cornish Social and Economic Research Group (CoSERG) suggests “10,462 houses and 2,464 apartments, a total of 12,926 properties. Thats about 5% of the housing stock”

However there are apparently 30,000 properties in Cornwall that are not ‘primary residence’.

No one knows!

But it matters because in the end all the rubbish adds up and it could be worth a few million less to the people actually paying for the service.

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The council binmen don’t do trade waste. A holiday let would be expected to initiate a contract with someone like H&A or some of the entrepreneurs who will see the opportunity to do a village round.  “The property owner must arrange for this to be collected by a registered commercial waste provider, to cover collection and disposal of their waste” the Council said.

One easy solution already touted would be for the council to offer the service. This would be the path of least resistance and could put the money into council coffers. What if all the cottages paid eg £3 week to have their rubbish collected? Even by the Council’s conservative estimate of 7,325 holiday lets, £3 a week would generate over £1.1 million a year.

Maybe then we could afford a weekly round for all?

*Cllr Sue James will be appearing on Questions on Cornish Stuff, our new Question Time style show on 27th September. See details here:


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