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Audit Commission warns of tax hike unless councils deliver infrastructure

Council tax bills may increase and services may be cut if authorities do not deliver planned waste treatment facilities and keep up the pressure to reduce, reuse and recycle, according to a new Audit Commission report.

Well Disposed: responding to the waste challenge
, says the UK can meet European Union Landfill Directive targets to reduce the amount of waste landfilled by 2013 if the councils who have planned waste treatment facilities build them on time.

Audit Commission chairman Michael OHiggins said: Councils that are struggling to find effective ways of reducing their landfill can not afford to do nothing. Even if England as a whole meets the 2013 target, those authorities that exceed their landfill allocations could still be facing fines of as much as £2m each. This bill could only be paid by increasing council tax or cutting services.

The report also says if schemes that were already planned via private finance initiatives were delayed by just two years, England would exceed its landfill allocation by 13% and incur £140 million in penalties which would be picked up by the taxpayer.

All English councils with responsibility for waste disposal were surveyed for the report. Two groups were looked at those who have procured mechanical biological treatment and incineration technology and those who had not decided which technological options to go for.

Audit Commission head of environment Andy Walford told MRW: The nation should meet the 2010 target and ought to meet the 2013 and probably the 2020 one as well. This is not to say that councils will meet their individual targets.

Authorities well into the process, who have procured MBT and incineration need to keep their foot on the gas to deliver the schemes. If those schemes are delivered or into procurement they need to have good management of the planning process, set up a good contractand get the residents on board.

For those councils who have yet to make the decision they have more flexibility and do not have to necessarily follow by the first groups route. They can be more reflective and think about new methods of disposal that are now available.

The report also says the councils have failed to take advantage of the Landfill Allowance Trading scheme. But Walford said that of late there have been developments in the market place.

Head of studies Katie Smith said councils who constantly engage the local community with their planning process tend to be more successful with their applications.

Walford said they have to think about the full range of money available to them to make sure they use public money wisely to deliver targets.

He said: It is not necessarily about building a major plant, councils could look at other options such as trading in landfill allowance scheme markets it is their choice.

Walford said that the key thing in the report is that as a nation there has been a remarkable change in behaviour and that has quadrupled its recycling from 1999.

Image: Audit Commission Well Disposed report cover

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