Environment Minister Joan Ruddock has defended waste laws, against Local Government Association (LGA) calls for a rethink of interpretations. In a letter to the LGA (April 3 2008) she said that Government requests for full compliance, made in a letter sent October 2007, represented the same position Government has taken for many years.
But LGA policy officer Alice Roberts told MRW in March 2008 that full compliance would mean schedule 2 organisations, such as hospitals, schools and prisons, would be able to claim free waste disposal from local authorities (LAs) (mrw, March 14 2008). Roberts also estimated this could cost LAs more than a £1million.
Despite her stance Ruddock admitted that she was aware of pressures on LAs. In the letter she invited the LGA to an official level meeting to discuss these issues. But she added: There is an established principle that funding follows responsibility and any transfer of waste function would be unlikely to be made an exception. She also said that a review of all waste management law would be a major undertaking.
Ruddock said: I think a meeting [with the LGA] would provide an opportunity to discuss evidence needed to inform our consideration of a possible review of the relevant legislation.
But she also highlighted the legal vulnerability of non-compliant LAs, adding that she was heartened by statements that there is no wish to side step responsibilities and that authorities should be complying with the law.
She did answer one LGA concern about collections of commercial waste, suggesting that some LAs may have misread the original letter. She said that LAs could arrange for a third party to collect commercial waste. This would be classified as municipal waste and should be reported as such.