Green campaigners have praised Eric Pickles for “belatedly seeing sense” in allowing councils to bid for funding for food waste collections.
Ministers previously suggested that the £250m Weekly Collection Support Scheme was about restoring weekly black bag collections.
But, in an apparent change of heart, the 21-page prospectus which outlines how councils can bid for funding clearly states bids for weekly collections of food and organic waste will be considered.
An extract from the prospectus, unveiled by the communities secretary, said: “The aim of this scheme is to support local authorities to….(c) add a weekly food waste (or organic waste) service to an existing fortnightly collection of residual household waste, where an authority can credibly demonstrate that this represents the preference of local people.
“This additional service will reduce the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill, and reduce the amount of biodegradable food waste that has to be stored in or around the home.”
Barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik’s cube
Friends of the Earth’s waste campaigner Julian Kirby said: “We give Eric Pickles credit for belatedly seeing sense and including food waste collections but we still believe ministers are wrong in trying to bribe councils to revert to weekly residual collections.”
Kirby said green campaigners would monitor how bids were evaluated and called for a transparent process.
The move to include food waste collections follows a senior Department for Communities & Local Government official telling MPs before Christmas the fund would be reserved for residual waste.
DCLG director general of localism David Prout told a committee the fund would be reserved for councils which met key criteria, including retained or reinstated weekly residual waste collections.
“It’s about three things: it’s about reinstating or retaining a weekly black bag collection - in other words, so you as a household get your rubbish collected every week - and it’s about improving environmental performance, and it’s about improving value for money,” he told the communities and local government committee in December.
To secure funding for next financial year, councils must submit expressions of interest by mid-March, with initial bids in May and full bids by August.
It is disappointing that households in some areas will miss out because government has excluded those councils currently in the process of switching to alternate weekly collections
Announcing the prospectus, a DCLG statement said: “Ministers believe that waste services have become too complex, leaving residents anxious about following the rules and possible penalties.
“They think councils should focus on three things: better weekly collections; better contracts; and better use of innovative ideas or technology that help residents to recycle more and do their bit for the environment.”
Pickles added: “Rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their £120-a-month council tax bill. But barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik’s cube. The public are fed up of all the bin do’s and bin don’ts.”
The LGA said in areas where financial considerations have held councils back from operating weekly collections this new money will come in useful but accused ministers of “double standards”.
LGA environment board Vice chairman Clyde Loakes said: “It is disappointing that households in some areas will miss out because government has excluded those councils currently in the process of switching to alternate weekly collections.
“This sets a double standard, which arbitrarily penalises local authorities reviewing their waste collection arrangements this year, while offering money to those who have already made the switch.”
He added: “The decision ultimately comes down to local choice, and we are pleased councils’ calls for the flexibility to spend this money on weekly collections of food and organic waste have been listened to.”
Matthew Farrow, the Environmental Services Association’s director of policy, said: “Waste management companies want to collect and manage waste in ways which are both user-friendly for the householder and benefit the environment.
“So we welcome the way in which the fund prioritises environmental criteria and services that meet the needs of householders.
“We also support the encouragement given to local authorities to think innovatively and to work with the private sector. We look forward to working with local authority customers to help them make best use of the opportunities the fund provides.”
A senior Department for Communities and Local Government official told an LGA conference that the timetable would be “challenging” for councils.