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Watchdog claims council waste spending could reduce by £464m

The Audit Commission has suggested councils are not putting enough money into recycling and waste minimisation, and that £464m could have been saved in 2012-13 if the highest spending authorities cut their waste costs.

Its findings have prompted a fresh denunciation from the Department for Communities and Local Government of the trend to fortnightly refuse collections to save money.

In its Local authority waste management: Using data from the Value for Money (VFM) Profiles report, the commission said spending on waste management had fallen by £46m since 2009-10, but the extra £464m could be saved if those spending the most cut back to the average level for their type of council and population.

Although recycling has increased, the rate achieved varied between 12% and 67% for the worst and best performers, although 20% of councils recycled at least half their household waste.

The commission said that, among upper-tier councils, 58% spent between £125-175 per household in 2012-13 while 28% spent more than £175 and 13% more than £200.

In 2012/13 authorities spent 3% of their total revenue spending (£3.9bn) managing 23 million tonnes of household waste. This gross figure includes spending on landfill tax.

Commission chair Jeremy Newman said spending on waste minimisation was “very low” and warned that the current slowing trend in recycling rates would lead to the UK missing its EU targets.

He said: “In 2012/13 local authorities spent a fifth of their total expenditure on the most desirable option for household waste management: minimisation and recycling. They spent the other four-fifths on the collection and disposal of waste – the least desirable options.”

Newman added that councils had the “power to influence to encourage residents to do the right thing”.

“Councils can use this briefing to consider how to manage household waste and what can be done to improve the service people receive and how to best protect the environment and reduce expenditure.”

Local government minister Brandon Lewis’ response to the report reflected his boss Eric Pickles’ preoccupation with the restoration of weekly bin collections.

Lewis said: “There is clear evidence that councils can make sizeable savings, such as through better procurement and renegotiating contracts, without affecting the quality and breath of services.

“It is a myth propagated by bin barons and town hall bureaucrats that fortnightly collections are needed to save money.”

  • Parts of this article were taken from MRW’s sister publication LGC
 Total expenditure
Total income (bn)Net expenditure (bn)
Waste minimisation<£0.1<£0.1<£0.1
Waste collection£1.1£0.2£0.9
Waste disposal£2.0£0.2£1.8

Local authority spending on household waste management 2012/13.

Source: Audit Commission


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