More than 10% of English councils plan to cut recycling services, despite the probability of more demanding targets being imposed after 2020.
A survey of the state of council finances by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) think-tank found spending pressures were such that 11% of them planned to reduce recycling activity next year and 22% to reduce waste collection service levels.
This is despite expectations that targets after 2020 will reach 65% in England and Northern Ireland and 70% in Scotland and Wales.
‘Environment and waste’ was named joint second among long-term spending concerns, tied with ’housing and homelessness’ and cited by 17% of the 158 councils that responded, compared with only 9% in 2016.
It was still far behind the 37% who thought ’adult social care’ the most pressing issue.
The survey found 84% councils saw it as a high priority to explore other sources of income beyond council tax and business rates. These included introducing, or increasing, charges for garden and bulky waste collection and replacement bins.
LGIU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said: “Eight out of 10 of those people leading English local government tell us it is unsustainable.
“As it stands, councils are facing the 2020 cliff-edge without a clear idea of how they will be funded afterwards or how much money they will have.”
This was because council tax accounted for only 16% of local authority income, while central Government grants had fallen sharply and there had been delays to their intended replacement by retaining business rate income where it is raised.
The survey found 80% of councils were not confident in the sustainability of local government finance and 53% felt their financial situation negatively affected relationships with citizens.