Model borough faces bill for pounds 700,000

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The London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames , with its recycling rate second to none, has mixed feelings about the new landfill tax.

Because almost a quarter of the waste its households generate is re-used and recycled instead of being dumped, the tax will bear less heavily on it than on councils which recycle less. But it will still bear down heavily. The council's waste supremo, David Streeter, said the tax would cost Richmond pounds 700,000 in the next financial year. That is equivalent to about pounds 10 on the council tax for the average household if it was passed straight through.

``The Government has provided no compensation for the introduction of the new tax in its grants to councils,'' he said. ``So it means further pressure on us to cut expenditure and services.''

Yet the Liberal Democrat-controlled council supports the tax in principle, and believes its recycling rate can be doubled to 50 per cent fairly soon.

The Government's target is for 25 per cent of municipal refuse to be recycled or put to some other positive use by the year 2000, but Richmond hopes to achieve that this year.

It collects waste paper weekly from the doorsteps of the great majority of Richmond homes. And it has 108 local recycling banks, including street corner ``microbanks''. None of them are more than half a mile from any house in the borough.

It is now, says chief contract services officer Mr Streeter, a matter of necessity. ``If we don't reduce, reuse and recycle waste much more, then London is going to face a critical situation in seven to ten years,'' he warns.

He gives the reason as a lack of landfill space in southern England.

Richmond's waste is taken by train to landfill sites in the depths of Oxfordshire.