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Pickles' cash fails to curry favour

When communities minister Eric Pickles launched his £250m weekly collection support scheme, his professed aim was to encourage councils to move from “fortnightly” to weekly collections. A curious aim, since few, if any, councils collect refuse only once a fortnight. The vague language was interpreted by its intended audience in the national media as a move to weekly residual collections.

On that measure, MRW’s exclusive research suggests that the fund will fail. MRW received information from more than 70% of the 351 councils. Among them were 110 of the 166 who have submitted bids to Eric Pickles. We found less than 1% applied to fund a shift from AWC to weekly and under a third wanted funds to retain a weekly collection.

The Government has dismissed the findings, claiming two thirds would use the fund to keep weekly collections. For this to be the case, 100% of the remaining bidders that MRW did not reach would have to be bidding to stay weekly. More likely is that government has included weekly food collections in its accounting.

Our figures show 43% of bidders seeking funds for weekly food collections – a wise way to access funds and maintain and increase recycling rates. A healthy number also sought funding for weekly disposable nappy collection, a sensible and forward-thinking option. It is a shame the fund criteria made it difficult to seek funds for re-usable nappy laundering, which could reduce use of disposables.

With the fund oversubscribed, not all bids will succeed. Ultimately, the beauty parade could be somewhat academic: since the fund is not ringfenced, theoretically councils will be free to spend any money won however they please.

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