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'No extra cash’ for Stewart’s harmonisation

Local authorities have warned that resource minister Rory Stewart’s drive to introduce harmonised household collections will be difficult without additional funding.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils would need more money to implement Defra’s initiative but this had not been not forthcoming.

“[Defra] believes that national models of waste collection services, as seen in Wales and Scotland, will increase recycling rates and save councils money. We have raised concerns about the potential cost to councils, noting that significant upfront investment may be required,” it said.

“At this time Defra has indicated that no additional funding is available from central government to promote this initiative.”

The LGA repeated the call for landfill tax revenues to be redistributed to local government to pay for recycling infrastructure.

The comments came in response to a call to evidence from the Environmental Audit Committee into the Treasury’s contribution to meeting recycling targets.

Councils paid over £600m in landfill tax to the Treasury in 2015-16 and the LGA called for this to be returned through the revenue support grant so that decisions on investing in infrastructure to improve recycling performance could be taken locally.

“This could include the costs of new receptacles, collection vehicles, sorting facilities, reuse storage capacity and organic treatment,” it said.

Lobbying body London Councils made a similar call, suggesting the city’s landfill tax could be given back “as part of the devolution conversation”.

It also offered to develop a proposal to the Treasury for the introduction of pay-as-you-throw schemes and compulsory recycling measures.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) argued that evidence in the devolved nations of Scotland and Wales showed how the availability of government funding was critical for recycling levels.

“If we use the example of food waste, money was made available to Welsh Local Authorities specifically to support the implementation of separate food waste collections. Together with the introduction of key legislative powers, the result has been an increase in overall recycling rates,” it said.

On the other hand, Larac said, the £250m weekly collections support scheme was an example of where central Government spending could have been used more effectively.

It said the scheme failed in its initial intention to incentivised weekly residual collections but had helped fund an increase in weekly food collections.

“Only 28% of bids received were for the introduction of food waste recycling collections. 20% were awarded funding,” it said.

“Had 100% of the money been used to support food waste recycling collections, the industry would have seen an increase in capture of this material which could have boosted recycling rates.”

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