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Welsh waste bill criticised over ‘double penalty’ risks

A Welsh National Assembly committee has voiced concern that a proposed waste bill may result in local authorities being charged twice if they fail to meet reduction targets

In a report on the Proposed Waste (Wales) Measure, which was introduced by Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson, the committee commented that there was a potential for local authorities to be charged twice under two different arms of the same bill.

If passed into law, the proposed Measure could allow the Welsh Assembly to introduce statutory waste reduction targets – with a provision for financial penalties if they are not met – as well as a new ban on certain waste streams from landfill, which would carry a second financial penalty.

The report stated: “We consider there is the potential for local authorities to be penalised twice under the provisions of the proposed Measure, firstly for failure to meet the statutory waste targets, and secondly for non-compliance with landfill bans. This is in addition to the landfill tax already in place covering municipal waste.”

In evidence sessions, the possibility of double charging was criticised by the Mid Wales Waste Partnership (MWWP). In written evidence, MWWP chairman Ken Harris said: “The penalties proposed could make it even harder for authorities to deliver front-line services. The use of double penalties in relation to waste may protect that service (or not) but could have a much greater or worse impact on other services such as education and social services.”

But Davidson defended the possibility of financial penalties in the context of landfill bans.

“Civil sanctions in this context are a good alternative to criminal sanctions, because giving these alternatives to an enforcement authority allows it to make a more proportionate and flexible response to regulatory non-compliance,” she said. “Otherwise it will be between prosecuting, cautioning or taking no action.”

Despite the criticisms, the national assembly committee recommended that the Welsh Assembly agree to the Measure, but warned that the proposed legislation currently lacks policy detail. The report commented: “We are concerned that the minister has introduced a proposed Measure for which so much policy detail has yet to be formulated.”

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