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Pickles: councils must restore weekly collections or lose funding

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has warned that English councils that fail to restore weekly bin collections could have their central government funding slashed.

Pickles said there was “no plausible reason” why councils should not collect bins weekly, the Press Association has reported.

The announcement could affect more than half of councils in England that run some form of fortnightly collection.

The government is providing £250m through Pickles’ pet project, the Weekly Collection Support Scheme. It was initially aimed at returning councils to a weekly service, but the criteria for bids were opened out to include a variety of different recycling schemes, from food waste to disposable absorbent product collection.

Officials said 85 local authorities covering more than six million households were set to benefit from the programme out of the 130 that put in bids.

A MRW investigation of the 326 English collection authorities in September found that out of 216 eligible councils only Stoke-on-Trent had bid to revert to weekly.

“Weekly bin collections are one of the most visible frontline services and there is no plausible reason why councils shouldn’t deliver them to hard-working residents,” Pickles said. “We have demolished the Labour myth that fortnightly bin collections were necessary to save money or increase recycling.

“If councils don’t get their house in order and deliver this basic public service then not only will they be held to account at the ballot box. We will be looking closely at the central government funding for bin collections; councils receive £28bn in formula grant funding – it’s not unreasonable that they provide a decent bin service in return.”

Recycling charity Waste Watch stated that they think Pickles’ move from carrot to stick is unwanted by the majority of local authorities “and would be detrimental for the environment, society and the economy”. The charity believes that weekly collections will result in falling recycling rates, and potentially increase waste to landfill.

The chief executive of Wyre Council Garry Payne commented on the site of our sister magazine Local Government Chronicle: “In April this year we entered into a new partnership arrangement with Veolia to deliver our waste contract based on fortnightly collections. As a result we have saved our tax payers £1.3 million per year; complaints have hit an all-time low whilst compliments have rocketed. ! [sic] I think that our residents may be a little perturbed by the threat of a reduced central grant for not operating a weekly waste service!”

Localism agenda hypocrisy

Waste Watch said that Pickles’ new approach defies the government’s localism agenda. “Localism Localism Localism has been our mantra for some time now,” Eric Pickles wrote on his blog last year.

Phillip Ward, the former director of local government at WRAP commented (below): “Eric Pickles says that he believes in localism. The reason why councils get formula (block) grants is so that they can be the judge of what services are most needed for their local circumstances. Threatening to reduce that grant if councils don’t make a specific decision for which there is no compelling evidence is not localism, it is bullying and face saving.”

In response to Eric Pickles comments in the press relating to weekly residual waste collections the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Resource Association stated: “It’s deeply disappointing to see Mr Pickles threatening councils with a centralised system and dictating how they should be collecting waste and resources.  This approach doesn’t fit at all with the principle of localism for waste services.”

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at the Environmental Services Association told MRW: “Eric Pickles’ latest comments show that the Government’s approach to collections and recycling is becoming less and less clear by the day. The conflicting political rhetoric around ‘greenest government ever,’ ‘localism’ and ‘weekly collections’ has become a mess.

“While ESA members can provide whatever type of collection services local authorities need and want, we would oppose any attempt to force a ‘one size fits all’ approach on local government.”

Joy Blizzard, the chair of the Local Authority Recycyling Advisory Committee said: “The way in which waste is collected is surely one of the most obvious services where localism (one of Mr Pickles key policies) should, and in most cases does take priority.  LARAC’s view has always been that local councils are best placed to decide how services are run in their own areas.”

Announcement due today

As MRW has reported, industry trade bodies and associations have this week called for an announcement on successful bids to the bin fund to be made without delay. Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) also condemned the continued unexplained delay in allocation of the Government’s weekly collection fund.

It has been reported that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will announce the result of the bids for the fund later today.

 

  • Check MRW.co.uk/news for updates.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Eric Pickles says that he believes in localism. The reason why councils get formula (block) grants is so that they can be the judge of what services are most needed for their local circumstances. Threatening to reduce that grant if councils don't make a specific decision for which there is no compelling evidence is not localism, it is bullying and face saving. But it is probably the smokescreen for what will be a difficult announcement for him of the outcome of his ill judged bin fund.

    If he does end up funding more weekly food waste collections and blustering about threats to block grant. It may not be all bad.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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