Rubbish arguments between charity and council

LOROS protests charge for tipping waste, pays thousands in investment management fees

Local charities and the county council are at loggerheads about waste tipping. LOROS and the local branch of Age UK have gathered 4,000 signatures against Leicestershire County Council’s proposed charges for tipping waste. No surprise there. The charities enjoy widespread popular support. By contrast, few people feel warm, generous and grateful towards their council.

What do the numbers say?

The council currently spends £27.4 million a year on waste management. It says it needs to reduce that by £4.9 million by 2018-19. It has various money-saving plans, including scrapping the permits that currently give free access to its recycling and household waste sites to 50 or so charities, parish councils and other organisations.

The council doesn’t know the exact tonnage of waste that such organisations tip freely. Its guess is around £1,280 tonnes. By discontinuing the free permits it thinks it could save around £90,000.

Last year LOROS estimated it tipped around 150 tonnes of waste at the 14 recycling centres around the county. Simon Proffitt, then chief executive of the LOROS hospice in Groby Road, Leicester, said a charge of £90 a tonne is being proposed. That would cost the charity a rounded-up £15,000 a year – the cost of providing ward care for two terminally-ill patients.

By April this year, the ballpark figure had gone up a bit more. Incoming LOROS chief executive John Knight implied that the cost to the charity was to be £25,000, the equivalent of care for three patients a year.

LOROS also upped the pressure by pointing out that last year it reported a deficit for the first time for many years. It can’t afford the charge and patient care will be at risk, is the clear implication.

Latest accounts from the charity certainly show a deficit – of £392,028 for the year to April 2014. Income from the NHS of £2.7 million was down 2 per cent. Its general fundraising income was 6 per cent down on the previous year at £2 million. Its profit from shops and other trading was down to £124,000, a fall of £183,000.

But the main reason for the deficit was that legacy income was unusually low. At just £952,000 it was well down on that of previous years, around £1.8 million each year. Legacy income is large, but uneven and unpredictable. That makes it difficult to base an argument on one year’s figures. Legacy income has traditionally allowed the charity to build its reserves, which currently stand at £7.4 million for free reserves and total net assets of £20 million. It is not about to go broke. Its income from bank and building society deposits and its investments was alone close to £280,000 last year. It paid £21,000 in investment management fees.

A neutral observer looking at the figures might conclude that LOROS is much better able to withstand the loss than the seriously cash-strapped local authority. The council has little room for manoeuvre. It has many statutory duties, services which it it is required by law to provide. Some of them are just as vital to families and individuals as the patient and family care of LOROS. Its income is largely fixed. It must make deep cuts.

Yet, when it comes to public sympathy, LOROS and Age UK are always likely to come out on top.

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