Resource minister Lord de Mauley said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by calls from the Local Government Association (LGA) for more action by Whitehall, and responded by challenging councils to operate more efficiently.
In a review of the waste management industry, ‘Wealth from Waste’, the LGA called for revenues from landfill tax to be reinvested in joint local authority and private sector waste projects to generate income for cash-strapped councils.
It also included a raft of other recommendations including: improving quality via the MRF code of Practice, levelling the playing field for domestic reprocessors with exporters, the ongoing WEEE consultation and boosting reuse.
Councils have been hit with 33% funding cuts over the past three years and further cuts are expected in the next spending round. But the LGA argued the waste and recycling industry could help local authorities generate £1bn by 2020.
We all face a tough financial future. It is more important than ever that local authorities work together as efficiently as they can
Lord de Mauley
But Lord de Mauley was disappointed by the emphasis on Government policy in the review, and said there was a large role for industry and local government in getting value from waste. Speaking at the launch of the review at LGA headquarters in London, he said: “So let me ask you today what you are each going to do to take the standard of every local authority and bring it up to and beyond the standard of the very best.”
He said: “We all face a tough financial future. It is more important than ever that local authorities work together as efficiently as they can,” citing the example of Somerset and Dorset as waste partnerships successfully saving money. (See MRW’s insight on the future of waste partnerships: MRW.co.uk/8647825.article)
Guidance on transposition
De Mauley announced that Defra will be working with the LGA on producing guidance on what councils should do to adhere to the UK’s transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directive, including how to assess what is “technically, environmentally and economically practicable”.
He also said he was grateful for the support of the LGA on the recent judical review on the matter.
The minister also said that waste crime enforcement had to be tackled robustly but he admonished local authorities for treating people who were “inadvertently putting their waste out for collection incorrectly” as criminals.
“I am amending the sanctions available in this area through the Deregulation Bill. Once legislative changes are made, local authorities will be able to use civil sanctions to deal with householders whose behaviour makes life more difficult for their neighbours,” he said.
Defra is also supporting local authorities incentivise recycling through rewards schemes, through the Reward and Recognition Fund, which has funded 25 trial schemes intended to increase recycling. “Milton Keynes Council and Coca Cola are piloting a scheme where community groups carry out small surveys to find out why people aren’t recycling, give them advice, and collect pledges to recycle more.”
The minister promised the publication of a progress report on rewards programmes funded by Defra later in the year to highlight best practice.
He also underlined his intentions to explore “whether changes are needed to the PRN system to ensure there is a level playing field here, and our domestic industry is not disadvantaged”.
He also called for local authorities to “update” their work in the area of waste prevention. He added: “I strongly encourage you to take part in our consultation on the draft [Waste Prevention] Programme, which will be launched in the summer before we publish the final programme later this year.”
Andy Doran, chair of the Resource Association, welcomed the LGA’s review and called for the Government to “seriously consider the recommendations outlined… and afford local authorities some of the flexibility they need to realise the potential that exists in every community”.