Southwark’s Liberal Democrats have blasted the council’s record on recycling following the release of waste figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  

The latest Government figures, covering between April 2019 and March 2020, show that the borough’s recycling rates went down by 0.1 per cent, which the opposition has labelled “unacceptable” in light of the climate emergency.  

The Lib Dems have also criticised the lack of improvement on recycling rates in the borough – last year the figure was 35.1 per cent, while between 2015 and 2016 it was 35 per cent. 

But the council’s lead cabinet member said the criticism was “astounding” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The opposition compared Southwark to Lib Dem-run councils Kingston, Sutton, and Richmond, which achieved recycling rates of between 43.6 per cent and 48.6 per cent, but the council says they are not comparable to its borough.  

Cllr Graham Neale, climate change spokesperson for the Southwark Lib Dems, said: “I’m never one to talk rubbish, but this can’t be ignored.  

“Southwark’s seven years of stalled recycling rates is a disgrace and an example of the ongoing failure of this Southwark Labour administration to address the crisis our planet faces with climate change.  

“Not only have they cut down our trees and continue building on our green spaces, they are literally burning up the planet with their reliance on rubbish and burning fossil fuels.  

“This is about deadlines not more Labour headlines.”  

Cllr Catherine Rose, Southwark’s cabinet member for leisure, environment and roads, said the comments were an “insult to keyworkers”.  

“It is astounding that the Liberal Democrats are criticising a 0.1 per cent decrease in recycling during the most unprecedented and challenging year in a generation.  

“In a year where refuse collectors have gone above and beyond to keep services running as normal despite staff sickness and driver shortages, this is an insult to our keyworkers.    

“We are immensely proud that Southwark has the best recycling rate out of all the 13 inner London boroughs.  

“This achievement is all the more impressive considering what Labour inherited from the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in 2010 – the 6th worst recycling rate in the country.  

“Comparing Southwark recycling rates with Kingston, Sutton and Richmond is not like for like.  

“These are leafy suburban areas with mostly street-based properties, not a densely populated inner-city borough like ours, comprised of multiple estates and blocks of flats,” she said.