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Defra: bin charge pilots will go ahead

Pay-as-you-throw pilot schemes are absolutely going ahead despite Gordon Browns plans to ditch them, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Several recent newspaper reports said that Brown had ditched plans for a national roll out of the pay-as-you-throw scheme in an effort to assuage the public mood after Labours unsuccessful local election results.

Under the proposals for the scheme councils would be allowed to charge householders for their refuse by weight, or by the number of bin bags they leave out. Financial incentives were to be offered to householders who recycled more.  The proposals would have allowed councils to charge households taxes that could cost £100 if they put out more than a set amount of rubbish.

Today (May 6 2008) Defra insisted that the projects were still going ahead. A spokeswoman said: Five local authorities will next year be undertaking pilot schemes to create incentives for recycling. We will evaluate the impact of those pilots before making a final decision on whether other local authorities can introduce similar schemes.

The Local Government Association branded the Prime Minister a ditherer and questioned why taxpayers were being asked to contribute £7.5 million on the trials if his mind was made up. It also warned that denying councils powers to encourage recycling would leave them facing massive fines under EU regulations.

Defra announced last November that it intended to run the pilot schemes but before these can go ahead, there will need to be changes made to legislation, to be taken forward in the Climate Change Bill. Defra said the earliest that they will take place will be in 2009.

The five local authorities have yet to be chosen but 14 councils have expressed an interest.
If the schemes go ahead they will need to be backed up by various checks and balances that include a requirement that local authorities have proven kerbside recycling services and take account of potentially disadvantaged groups. Concern has been raised over the potential for fly-tipping if the plans go ahead. Defra said: While evidence from overseas does not point to an automatic increase in fly-tipping, we consider that prevention strategies are a sensible precaution.

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