Cuts of 10% to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) budget for the financial year 2015/16 have been announced by the chancellor George Osborne as part of the Spending Review.
Other savings which could affect the waste industry were: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) 10%; the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) 8%; and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 6%.
A Defra spokesperson said: “Our settlement enables us to make our contribution to reducing the deficit, while still meeting our objectives and priorities. We will do so through efficiencies and working smarter where we can.”
But Chris Murphy, deputy chief executive of the The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) said the announcement “deepened the organisation’s concerns” on Defra’s ability to deliver.
This was echoed by the Resource Association’s chief executive Ray Georgeson: “There is much still to do to reach European best practice levels of recycling and resource efficiency… In a diminishing funding regime for Defra, all of this will be even harder to achieve, despite the valiant efforts of many.”
“It means that the spending that is available, for example to WRAP and the EA, will need to be even more focused on what is really needed to deliver green growth and boost the UK economy and employment,” he added.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) repeated the call to protect funding for tackling waste crime in response to the review. “At a time when the Environment Agency is still identifying new illegal waste sites more quickly than it can shut down existing ones, any let up on the criminal behaviour which both blights communities and undermines legitimate business must be avoided,” said ESA’s director of policy, Matthew Farrow.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, said that 10% was a “significant slice” and “a negative message to the industry” but added that cuts could be positive if they meant fewer regulations “that allow us to more easily do the job we are very good at”.
Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “The Government have been forced to make more cuts to Defra today because their economic plan has failed.”
MRW understands the details of Defra’s spending priorities will be published later in the week.
DCLG cuts to impact waste industry
The 10% cut to the DCLG was also of concern to the industry, as was the Government’s pledge to ensure council tax bills in England would be frozen for the next two years.
CIWM’s Murphy said that cuts in the region of 10% and the extension of the council tax cap could seriously impact on councils’ ability to maintain current collection, recycling and local environmental quality services, “let alone improve them”.
“We knew that this spending review would herald more tough cuts … but it is disappointing to see that the two key departments of critical importance to the waste sector are once again among the hardest hit,” he added.
Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) said: “Local authority budgets are under ever increasing pressure as a result of the Spending Review – but with ever more innovative waste collection and treatment options becoming available, which have been shown to save councils money, there are plenty of opportunities to make waste collection and treatment more environmentally-friendly and lower cost through embracing technologies such as AD.” She called for an increase in food waste collections, as advised by the Committee on Climate Change.
Investor certainty assurances on renewables
Announcing the 8% decrease in DECC’s budget, Osborne said: “We are providing the certainty investors are crying out for in western countries. This country is already spending in renewables more than ever before. We will provide future strike prices for low carbon.” In contrast, trade bodies for AD and biogas have repeatedly called for a 2030 decarbonisation target to encourage investment in the sector, which ministers oppose.
Despite the 6% BIS cut, Osborne said the Government would continue the “dramatic increase in support provided to exporters through the UKTI [UK Trade & Investment]”.
- For updates on announcements around the Spending Review check the MRW site daily