Significant reductions in Defra’s activities in the waste sector from April have been announced by the new resource minister Dan Rogerson.
Rogerson, left, has written to industry stakeholders saying that budget cuts have forced ministers to review their priorities.
“Defra will not have the capacity to take forward new policy work in areas such as commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste, as well as proactive energy from waste policy development.”
These areas, the MP said, were those where “businesses are better placed to act and there is no clear market failure”.
He also warns councils that “given the strong financial case for Local Authorities to realise efficiencies from their waste contracts”, Defra will be cutting “generic support”.
In a letter starting: “Dear Stakeholder”, Rogerson talks of his commitment to resource management, both as a co-chair of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group, and as a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee. He also highlights improved recycling rates, less material going to landfill and the importance of voluntary agreements such as the Courtauld Commitment as achievements in the sector.
There is a real danger it sends a negative message to investors and the public alike that the Government is disengaging
Ray Georgeson, chief executive, Resource Association
“However, these are challenging times, and the Government has had to prioritise its work to make the best of public funding,” he writes. “I regret that the first contact I will have with many of you is to inform you of reductions to our activities. However, I wish to reassure you that this area is one of my priorities”.
Rogerson says that from April 2014 “we will be stepping back in areas where businesses are better placed to act and there is no clear market failure”.
As well as reining back in C&I and C&D areas, Defra’s current programmes of work on AD and food waste are seen as nearing completion.
“The responsibility for taking work forward will largely rest with the industries concerned,” Rogerson writes.
Some of its work will continue, however. As well as publishing the Waste Prevention Programme for England later this year, the minister says Defra will be taking forward “a limited programme” of work on waste prevention.
Reaction - Ray Georgeson, chief executive, Resource Association
“The new Minister is to be applauded for his directness and honesty about the reduction in Defra policy capacity even if some of this message may be unpalatable to some in the industry.
In the present economic and political climate there is an inevitability about this announcement and it is right for Government to step back where the business case for action is made and markets are working to drive resource efficiency forward. However, tone and signals are important and so as a first major announcement from him it does generate concerns, as there is a real danger it sends a negative message to investors and the public alike that the Government is disengaging.
We sincerely hope this is not the case, and note that the Minister seeks to reassure and states that resource efficiency and waste remains a priority for him. We therefore look to him for some early practical signs of this. A good starting point would be clarity on the timetable and detail of the proposed MRF regulations, which we are pleased to see he specifically mentions in his letter and commits to implementing.”