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More on Bin Charges… June 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As I’ve noted perviously, it’s not all about Brexit. Some excellent points in a piece by Colum Kenny on this subject in the Irish Times before the weekend. And some deeply thought-provoking ones, not merely in relation to privatisation, but the process of privatisation and who benefits from same. This isn’t to say that everything he writes is correct. For example, he complains about ‘populist posturing’ but without some push back this situation is not going to be resolved, even within the absurdly tight ideological constraints it is already confined within.

He notes:

The collection of bins was already problematic. In a tiny country like Ireland it is hard to understand why we already suffer wildly varying bin charges and collections. The system is all over the place.
If the current “competitive” system of bin collection makes theoretical sense for market idealists, it is hard to see how it can be environmentally friendly. Heavy trucks criss-cross the country to collect rubbish, trundling down narrow roads one after the other to too many dumps.

This, to me, is key. Privatisation of services made no environmental sense, did not deliver anything like actual ‘competition’ (and arguably never should) and has left a shambles.

Moreover, and here he is particularly good:

Waste collection privatisation was rushed and we may never know why. Well-resourced private lobbying has been largely invisible to the public but can provide Deputies and councils with statistics or one-sided arguments that seem overwhelming.
Privatisation took place partly to cut costs to councils, including wages, when negotiation with unions was thought unlikely to do so significantly. The option of controlled private franchising has been stymied by a court challenge.

Let’s put aside for a moment the weird matter of factness in the description of a process where a whole ownership structure was torn up and reformatted purportedly to deal with the costs of employing workers. But – as is inevitable, shove a cost away to someone else and it still exists. Cutting costs for councils made no sense given that said costs would be paid for out of general taxation or out of direct charges. Either way citizens would have to pay but one would be through (using the technical term as much as the ideological one) progressive means, the other through regressive means. That’s the key. Worse again would be – what we have seen – the development of a layer of private enterprises whose function appears to have little enough in regard of waste services and quite a lot in regard to maintaining and expanding themselves. It genuinely is a situation where a captive ‘market’ is held hostage by those who nominally are meant to service it, all of this under the far from watchful eye of the state or subsidiary state institution.

And what of the political aspects of this? Kenny asks:

Why was it not obvious to Ministers that any private charges for water and for waste collection should have been introduced gradually to test the equity of the system and to allow customers see what was fair and proportionate to usage?
Having botched water charges, Fine Gael failed to foresee that its plan for bin charges was deeply flawed.
If this is how simple systems of water and bin charges are managed, what confidence can we have that Ireland’s course has been well charted in the choppy waters of a global economy?

But there’s no surprise here. This is a government led by people for whom these, as with water charge, are simply not a problem. They don’t have to dig too deep in their pockets to pay said charges, indeed so little an inconvenience financially are these charges that they can make a great virtue of paying them. Others can’t. I find the most reprehensible aspect of this, and that’s saying something because it’s all reprehensible, is the complete ignorance as to why some of us might have (as with water) greater or lesser needs in terms of bin usage. Adults (and children) with severe medical conditions just weren’t on the radar. Perhaps in polite company that’s not an issue for the great and the good. Again, if the costs are – almost literally beneath them – well, why should it trouble them that for many these costs would be much much more than inconvenience.

Frankly the ignorance is of a scale that those in the political class who claim stewardship of this issue should hang their heads in shame.

Kenny, perhaps predictably, dances up to the line of ‘regardless of use’.

The unstable new Dáil is likely to be even more prone to populism. Already voices are raised on bin charges that suggest that these should be met by the central exchequer regardless of use.

But I don’t know. It seems to me that ‘use’ is something that needs massively greater analysis before there was any penalisation in regard to it. Indeed the flip side of the coin is the broader damage environmentally and in other ways of services not being used or being bypassed because of cost.

And I’m not sure that I agree with the following either:

Many citizens accept that, beyond a certain reasonable free allowance per person, people should pay for excess bin waste or water consumption. But what many fear is the underlying direction of the management of such resources, ultimately destined for the hands of multinationals.

How many citizens? How many is many? Again, how is this ‘excess’ quantified? I’d like to see a lot more input from actual citizens into these deliberations and some sense of the scale of what is unreasonable. None of this is to disagree with recycling, or good waste management, and there’s many ways to deal with that. But again, instead of the voices of well organised lobby groups, or representatives who are detached from day to day realities, how about hearing from …


1. Ed - June 28, 2016

“Waste collection privatisation was rushed and we may never know why. Well-resourced private lobbying has been largely invisible to the public but can provide Deputies and councils with statistics or one-sided arguments that seem overwhelming.”

The first sentence suggests it was a mystery; the second sentence tells us exactly why. And it was only a few weeks ago that Keena seemed to know exactly why the bin service was privatized – of course, it was because of the protests against bin charges.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2016

+1 again!


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