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2004 consigned to the recycling bin as DEFRA looks to the future

By Greg Pitcher

The Government has ended 2004 with a series of announcements on how waste will be dealt with in the new year and beyond.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published its strategy for the next five years.

Environment Minister Elliot Morley then revealed two measures to lessen the 2005/6 spending burden on local authorities.

A three-year Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant of £260 million was announced to help councils plan until 2008.

And finally the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill was published and introduced to Parliament.

Morleys announcement included a £50-per-tonne reduction in the fine for non-compliance with the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme.

Councils will now face a penalty of £150 for each non-permitted tonne of waste they send to landfill sites.

The Environment Minister also revealed that no local authorities would have to reach recycling rates above 30% for 2005/6.

This means more than 100 councils have had their targets for the 12 months beginning in March reduced to 30%.

Those two announcements allow both high-recycling and low-recycling local authorities to reduce their budgets for the next financial year.

This means less pressure to increase Council Tax bills, which could boost the Governments General Election preparation.

Morley said: We need to cut the amount of waste we dump in the ground and increase recycling and reuse of materials. The role of local authorities in reducing waste and landfill is vital.

Government strategy is to help local authorities achieve a further step change in the way they manage waste.

The package will give local authorities greater flexibility to tackle the challenges locally without compromising the Governments commitment to increase recycling and divert more biodegradable waste from landfill.

The Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant has been set up to help local authorities find quicker, cheaper ways of reducing reliance on landfill and increasing recycling. The money does not have to be spent in any specific way, but the Government is encouraging partnership working.

Morley added: Local authorities are under immense pressure to manage increasing waste at the same time as achieving a step change in the way they manage waste and delivering around £300m in efficiency savings on waste services.

Sharing the burden of costs through more effective joint working with neighbouring authorities can help deliver better value for money as well as improved service delivery.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill contained a range of powers to make the UK a brighter place to live.

These included greater powers to remove abandoned cars, gate nuisance alleyways, deal with fly-tipping, halt noisy alarms and pubs and hand out fixed-penalty fines.

Secretary of State for the Environment Margaret Beckett said: People rightly place a high value on clean, safe and green public spaces.

They want to live in communities that arent blighted by litter, graffiti and fly posters. And we should not have to tolerate the anti-social behaviour that leads to abandoned, burnt-out cars.

People want to live in greener communities that are well-designed and have attractive public spaces not ones degraded by rubbish and waste.

A high-quality local environment not only reduces fear of crime, it contributes to our sense of well-being. Again and again, people tell us that local problems that affect the quality of their everyday lives are a top priority.

The bill will help local authorities and agencies to do this more effectively. It provides them with the extra tools they have told us they need to tackle environment crime and improve the local environment.

Tony Blair joined Beckett in writing the foreword to DEFRAs five-year strategy Delivering the Essentials of Life.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State said: We believe this sets out a

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