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Eric, we were right first time

There has been a muted response so far this week from the Department of Communities and Local Government to further rock-hard evidence that its £250m weekly collection support scheme is not delivering what ministers planned when they announced it last year.

MRW’s issue of 6 July revealed our exclusive survey on councils’ response (MRW.co.uk/8632564.article), which indicated only one out of 326 collection authorities (Stoke-on-Trent) wanted to revert to weekly collections having previously run an alternate weekly collection (AWC). The cash had been offered because of Eric Pickles’ determination to rid England of AWCs. When our research was quoted in the Daily Telegraph, junior minister Bob Neill accused MRW of conducting a partial survey, presenting “a completely skewed and inaccurate picture”.

Then, we had surveyed ‘only’ 70% of relevant councils. This week, having contacted all 326 of them, the original MRW conclusion (in partnership with askjennie.com) is as firm as ever. Stoke remains the only one wanting to switch back. Five others are also reverting, but only in localised, challenging areas. See James Illman’s summary of the comprehensive follow-up research and his detailed Insight article.

Bob Neill was moved on in the recent reshuffle so it will be interesting to see if his successor maintains an equally strident position when our reports register in the national media. But let us recognise the benefits that the Law of Unintended Consequences can sometime bring. As Somerset Waste Partnership’s Steve Read points out in this issue, many of the bids across a range of materials have shown real innovative thinking. Perhaps Pickles’ hoped-for legacy as the man who guaranteed our curry leftovers were collected weekly actually sponsored sensible and forward-thinking alternatives.

Robin Latchem, associate editor, MRW

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