Microchips could be installed in household dustbins in Coventry to keep track of what residents throw out, under a proposal put forward by Coventry City Council – and it could lead to a knock on your door.
Conservative councillors lifted the lid on the authority’s plans to spy on its residents after spotting the proposals buried in a lengthy document. In response they raised questions at a recent meeting of the Council’s ‘Scrutiny Co-ordination Committee’.
At the meeting, officers from the Labour-controlled authority acknowledged they want to use this data to Identify neighbourhoods, and individuals, that were not participating in recycling. And they admitted those residents could face a knock at the door.
Although it’s not yet clear what other sanctions residents could face, the report also pledges to conduct several ‘behaviour change’ projects. The authoritarian proposal has been mooted as part of the city’s bid to tackle climate change. But it’s already been branded a ‘snoopers charter’ by Conservative Councillors in the city.
Commenting after the meeting, Cllr Gary Ridley, the Leader of Coventry’s Conservatives, said: “We should do all we can to support and encourage recycling. But this sounds like something from an authoritarian state that distrusts its own citizens. Frankly, it’s a chilling Orwellian nightmare from 1984 where big brother is watching you. It would appear we now live in a society where a policeman won’t visit you if you’re burgled – but a snooty town hall jobsworth will to lecture you about recycling. I wonder how many residents would welcome a knock at the door while they’re trying to cook dinner for the family? This is nothing but a snooper’s charter and I would urge Coventry City Council to can this plan immediately.”
Amongst other things, the document also considers the introduction of a ‘workplace parking levy’ which will worry many residents already paying more to go to work. There’s also a commitment to develop a ’15-minute city’ which has proved controversial in Oxford.
Cllr Peter Male, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, was also at the meeting. Afterwards he added: “In the absence of more senior council officers and the Cabinet Member, Cllr Jim O’Boyle, it was difficult to analyse the detail of this controversial report. Several points contained within the document require further scrutiny. Will a workplace parking levy represent a further tax on working people here in Coventry? Will a workplace parking levy be used to subsidise public transport projects like Very Light Rail? Why was the concept of a ‘living wall’ not trialled on the Council’s own new offices at the Friargate development. Is this a case of do what I say, not what I do?”
The strategy is currently out for consultation and is expected to report back to the city’s Labour Cabinet in July 2023.
The document is available for inspection here: https://edemocracy.coventry.gov.uk/documents/s56072/04%20Appendix%201.pdf The relevant paragraphs are LE12, CE1,EPC5.