His scathing comments follow the publication of a report by the National Audit Office entitled Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Reducing the impact of business waste through the business resource efficiency and waste programme (5 March). It states that the amount of business waste sent to landfill has fallen, but it is not possible to say how much of this reduction is down to the £240 million funded BREW programme.
The NAO was unable to conclude whether the spending was value for money because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had not set specific, quantified targets for the programme and it lacked reliable information on performance.
Leigh said that there were no binding targets for reducing the amount of business waste that is sent to landfill. He added: Defra has an expectation to reduce the amount of commercial and industrial waste the type of waste that is more harmful to the environment by 20% by 2010.
The NAO warns that this expectation is unlikely to be met.
Any progress that has been made is most likely to be because of the landfill tax that businesses have to pay, rather than the efforts of the Department [Defra], whose BREW programme has cost almost £240 million and had little perceptible impact.
It is easy to see why it has not been a very successful programme; lack of detailed information means that the Department cannot measure its progress or target the initiative effectively and with no evaluation of the programme to date it is not possible to say if value for money has been achieved or not.
The NAO report also found that businesses had a low level of awareness of the services available under the programme.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: There are indications that the programme has delivered some positive results: participating businesses have reported benefits, and there should be further long term gains in terms of reductions in business waste. However, the low awareness of the Programme among businesses and the absence of clear targets and reliable information to measure progress mean we cannot say whether the Department achieved value for money from the £240 million spent on the programme.
The BREW programme ran from March 2005 until April 2008.