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London councils’ challenge after powers reduced

A weakening of powers for London boroughs to drive improved recycling rates has caused communication difficulties, according to the policy group London Councils.

The Deregulation Act 2015 reduced the fixed penalty notice amount that councils are able to enforce on non-compliant residents from £110 to £60.

When the bill promoted by the then communities secretary Eric Pickles was being discussed in the House of Lords last year, London Councils called the lower charge “too lenient”.

Even so, while local authorities in the capital have had their powers reduced, some continue to operate compulsory schemes to improve recycling rates.

The group’s transport and environment committee chair Julian Bell said that boroughs always sought to communicate “effectively” with residents about recycling before imposing penalties but the capital’s “unique challenges” made this difficult.

Julian Bell

Julian Bell

Bell (pictured) said these included the more than 100 languages spoken in most boroughs and littering in areas of the capital that attracted large numbers of visitors.

“London is unlike any other city or region in England,” he said. ”It has 8.6 million residents and counting, a high proportion of residents living in flats, including high-rise blocks and flats above shops, millions of visitors each year and a large amount of private rented property.”

The group was unaware of how many local authorities in London still operated compulsory schemes.

But Islington confirmed to MRW that it continues to implement a regime introduced in 2011 while Barnet, the first borough to announce one 10 years ago, is consulting on a new version that includes enforcement “where necessary”. Bromley, Harrow and Brent have also operated schemes.

Such schemes have been shown to be effective, with Hackney reporting an initial 20% rise in recycling tonnages in some areas when it took that course in 2006. The borough also reported rises in recycling rates outside targeted residential zones, showing a knock-on effect.

Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall recently said that further Government cuts could cause more councils to consider compulsory schemes after Luton announced it was looking at one.

Pickles’ legislation came into force last June, after a bill was originally announced in 2013.

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