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Localist agenda for waste creates dilemmas, Lords warn

Principles of localism make for a “dilemma” in the context of waste collections, members of the House of Lords have warned.

The comments came in a Grand Committee consideration of the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 – the legislation which transposes the Waste Framework Directive into UK law.

Lord Tyler said: “The regulations do their very best, with what is described as a light-touch approach, to marry the objectives of consistency through the whole country with localism. However, it is a real dilemma for the householder who, perhaps like members of your Lordships’ House, has to dispose of refuse in different parts of the country on completely different bases.

“I understand that the Government is very properly insisting on trying to avoid over-regulation and on giving local authorities the opportunity to take their own decisions. However, on these matters, it makes for a postcode lottery, with businesses and households through the country faced with quite different concerns and costs. It should be a constant concern of any Government to try to get that balance right.”

The comments were echoed by Baroness Quin, who described the situation as a “bit of a dilemma”.

She said: “Local authorities have a lot of choices in implementing these regulations and, while I can understand that it is good for them to be able to judge how best to respond to these requirements, we do not want that to be at the expense of sacrificing overall standards in making progress.”

However, environment minister Lord Henley defended localist approaches to waste collection.

“I appreciate that my noble friend Lord Tyler said that there were real dilemmas in localism,” he said. “One point people always make is that it leads to what is called a postcode lottery. I do not think that particularly matters, provided the postcode lottery means that the best ones always get better and encourage the less good ones to follow them upwards.

“The other advantage of the so-called postcode lottery and of the localism view, which is particularly true in waste collection, is any idea that the Government imposed its own rules top-down would be wrong. We would get it wrong. Having different approaches coming from different authorities allows different ideas to be developed, and I believe that that is good.”

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