Councils have emphatically snubbed communities secretary Eric Pickles’ £250m “bribe” to return to weekly rubbish collections, exclusive research confirms.
A joint investigation by MRW and Jennie Rogers of askjennie.com, based on information from all 326 English collection authorities, provides the most wide-ranging analysis to date of bids to the Weekly Collection Support Scheme.
Just one out of the 216 English councils which run alternate weekly collections for their residual waste contacted by MRW/askjennie.com said they had applied for funding to switch from an alternate weekly (AWC) to a weekly collection for their residual waste across their locality – the reason the fund was set up
Labour-run Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s bid proposes increasing collection for both its residual and recycling rounds from fortnightly to weekly for 88,231 households.
An additional five authorities have bid for cash to support a return to weekly collections in areas where collections are challenging, such as flats, but will retain AWC for the majority of residents.
The findings comprehensively reinforce MRW’s July research, which was branded “wrong and inaccurate” by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The focus will now be on Pickles, who is expected to announce which bids have been successful in October, possibly at the Conservative party conference.
Rogers, an expert in local government and recycling services, said: “It comes as no surprise to me that all bar one of those councils which already have an AWC have opted to keep their service.
“Aside from the reduction in collection costs, league table evidence speaks for itself – recycling rates increase dramatically on the introduction of AWC, especially as alternate weekly collections often enables councils to enhance their recycling service.Who in their right mind would want to revert to weekly collections and run the risk of recycling rates falling?”
A pledge to ditch AWCs was originally made by the Conservatives before the 2010 election but Pickles has stepped up the campaign over the last 12 months.
He told the Daily Mail last September councils would have no excuse to retain “highly unpopular fortnightly schemes” following the introduction his heralded £250m fund.
Waste policy experts have condemned the scheme as environmentally and economically regressive, including former WRAP official Phillip Ward who told MRW the fund represented a “bribe”.
During the year, rhetoric around weekly ‘black bag’ collections has been replaced with talk of an increase in “weekly collections”. This shift opened the door for councils to use the fund as an opportunity to bolt on different recycling collections.
A DCLG spokesman said: “The department is currently assessing the bids and ministers will make a statement in due course. Weekly rubbish collections are the most visible of all front-line services and ministers believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week. The fund will help councils deliver weekly collections and also make it easier for families to go green and improve the local environment.”
Additional reporting by Ben Cary-Evans