Replacing 44 districts and counties with nine supersized authorities will save £100m, according to ministers. All local services in Cheshire, Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Northumberland, Durham, Shropshire and Wiltshire will be run by unitary authorities. Local Government Minister John Healey said councils hope the new system will strip out a layer of local government and provide better services for residents.
Durham County Council waste manager John Shannon said: "All together we believe the changes will be a positive way forward and it will offer opportunities to harmonise waste collection and disposal services through economies of scale and rationalising. Previously collection services worked within seven district boundaries. Clearly now, we are able to collect in a way that maximises efficiency.
"It will also provide the public with an easier system to understand and access that will be logical and an improvement all around. For example, rather than having the current situation of the public being uncertain who to call, district or county, to discuss a waste related issue going forward there will be one single point of contact. It is an exciting time and one that will improve waste and other services for the public of County Durham.
Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chair and Shropshire waste initiatives officer Joy Blizzard said: With the Shropshire Waste Partnership all waste services have been under one roof and its one good way of providing waste services. It helps the public to understand why waste is collected in one way, why we doorstep, and why disposal is done by somebody else. All these issues are coming under one roof and this will be easier for the public.
Blizzard added that the new system can provide councils with significant savings, especially those who have wiggly boundaries because collection services can get harmonised.
She added that the only disadvantage is that the system might not suit everybody: You need to be careful not to lose the local knowledge. Local authorities are taking care not to lose that local touch. Blizzard explained that Somerset Waste Partnership has not been affected by the unitary changes and that its system of tackling waste works well.
She said that waste was an obvious winner in this change but it was still important to obtain the decisions of local people on waste matters.
AEA Technology waste management consultant Adam Read said councils had to be careful how they explain the change to their residents. He said if they change all their services to alternate weekly collections, for example, then they had to explain that clearly.
A Cornwall Council spokeswoman said initially all waste management functions for the residents of Cornwall will remain the same with one point of contact for customer queries:
In the future services will be unified across Cornwall through a phased programme as current contracts come to an end. The merger of the waste disposal and waste collection authorities offers opportunities to deliver service and administrative efficiencies that will result in cost savings and improved services.