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Whitehall red faces as Pickles’ ‘bins bible’ is published in error

Guidance to councils from communities secretary Eric Pickles on ‘best practice’ for household bin collections was published in error, officials have admitted.

The announcement of a self-styled ‘bins bible’ in Pickles’ name went online on Boxing Day but a DCLG spokeswoman said it was withdrawn “within minutes”.

A press release, reported by MRW on 26 December, said the guidance was being sent to every local authority in England to counter “the ‘top 10 tall stories’ that ‘bin barons’ have used as excuses to cut the frequency of rubbish collection services”.

It was seen as the latest stage in Pickles’ campaign to preserve weekly household collections in England and against moves in Wales and Scotland for extensions to up to monthly schedules.

A DCLG spokeswoman said the release went on the official departmental website in error. No trace remains on the website, nor is there any correcting message. The department sent no emails to update media organisations such as MRW that had been originally alerted to the release.

The tone and content of the report was criticised by sector commentators and on social media. It also contained several typographical and grammar errors, including the following from page five of the document:

“We all recognise that we have got to cut down the amount that gets dumped in landfill. But this should be done in most heavy-handed way possible – such as cutting back the service, imposing new bin taxes, using unfair bin fines or snooping through people’s dustbins”

There was speculation the report was withdrawn because of inaccuracies (see below) but a DCLG spokeswoman said this had not been the case. She maintained it was published too early in error and would soon be re-published (see Clarification below).

Reactions within the waste sector to the ‘bible’ were scathing. On Twitter, former Defra official Philip Ward called it “untrue propaganda” while Sita UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones wondered why Pickles had “nothing better to do on Boxing Day”.

Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management called the withdrawal of the guidance “a shambles”.

In the release Pickles said: “This government is standing up for hard-working people and getting rid of barmy bin policies which made families’ lives hell.”

Clarification: After this story was published on 31 December 2013, DCLG disputed social media suggestions that inaccuracy was the reason for the document’s withdrawal. On 3 January 2014 we amended an original paragraph before the one starting: “Reactions within the waste sector” to provide extra details clarifying the criticisms and DCLG’s response.

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