Ministers: £250m will help fund weekly bin collections


Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on the 'right' to weekly collections

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The government says it will make £250m available to help English councils keep or restore weekly bin collections.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told the BBC he believed the money would make a "significant difference".

The government says only councils which guarantee weekly collections for five years and demonstrate improvements in recycling and procurement are eligible.

But Labour's Caroline Flint said the money was effectively a bribe to councils to "save Eric Pickles' face".

More than half of English councils run some form of fortnightly collection.

Many have invested in technology to operate alternate weekly schemes - in many areas the recycling is taken one week, general waste the next - and say fortnightly schemes encourage recycling and minimise expensive landfill taxes.

'Significant difference'

But Mr Pickles called it a "basic right" for homes to have their rubbish taken away weekly.

Asked whether £250m was enough, he told the BBC he believed it would make "a significant difference".

Start Quote

They are pulling out of the hat £250m to bribe councils to follow what Eric Pickles wants them to do, and that is to save Eric Pickles' face”

End Quote Caroline Flint Shadow Communities Secretary

"[Councils] already receive significant sums of money in order to do collections. This is not a bung, they would have to bid for a scheme to improve procurement, or to introduce incentive schemes for recycling or to introduce schemes whereby we look towards mechanical sorting of biological and recyclable waste."

"It will change a great deal... I think there's a recognition by all those concerned in the trade that this will make a significant difference."

The Weekly Collections Support Scheme is being funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) - no other budgets would be cut to pay for the scheme, it said.


In 2008, Mr Pickles told the Conservative Party conference that weekly collections would "be back" if the party gained power.

But in June the government admitted it could not force councils to provide weekly collections.

Mr Pickles told the BBC on Friday the government was not trying to force councils to do anything - but wanted to remove the financial incentive to go to fortnightly collections.

However, shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint dismissed the proposal as a "pre-Tory-conference stunt".


The Daily Express welcomes the move, declaring "sanity at last!"

The Telegraph's editorial says the extra cash means local councils have run out of excuses for not delivering on their core responsibility.

But the Daily Mail, which has campaigned on this issue, notes that Eric Pickles cannot force local authorities to make collections.

David Blackburn warns, in the Spectator, it has come at the "expense of accommodating cash-hungry local government, which could set a worrying precedent".

Finally, Green Party coordinator Rupert Reed fears, in Left Foot Forward, that the move could reduce the amount of recycling.

"They are pulling out of the hat £250m to bribe councils to follow what Eric Pickles wants them to do, and that is to save Eric Pickles' face," she said.

"What is worrying is why, if there is £250m available, they are not thinking about Sure Start centres and helping young people in further education?"

She said it appeared the money would only cover two and half years' worth of collections but councils would be expected to sign up for five years.

Friends of the Earth waste campaigner Julian Kirby told the BBC that fortnightly bin collections meant more recycling and reduced landfill.

And the Conservative leader of Wyre Forest District Council, John Campion told the BBC he would rather spend the money on other things.

"Yes, we can look at frequency but it is on the 'nice to have' list rather than the 'must have' list which is now about jobs and protecting the economy and getting the district working again."

But the Conservative Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, welcomed the news.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Any bid has to demonstrate the potential to increase recycling rates, which is one of the reasons a lot of councils went to every two weeks, and to provide other environmental benefits - reducing fly tipping, litter and all that side of good environmental waste collection. So, there's not one side to these bids."

At a time when the government is making large spending cuts, Mr Pickles was asked where the money had come from.

He said: "It's not easy to find... clearly my department's been cutting down a lot on waste and this money is coming out of my department."

Keith House, the LGA's Lib Dem environment spokesman, said the new money was good news but added: "There is more than a whiff of old fashioned 'Whitehall knows best' in Eric Pickles' diktat that only councils that provide weekly bin collection will be eligible for the new money."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    I think this is a huge step backwards. We need to invest more into recycling and that could include more food waste and recycling. It seems obscene to be using such a huge pot of money to incentivive councils to encourage people to create more waste when cuts are being made to so many important services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    This week, here in Bury, Lancashire, we are changing to a fortnightly grey bin collection.
    We have already had our fourth bin delivered & now have - Blue for plastic & glass - Green for paper & cardboard - Brown for garden & food waste - Grey for anything that is left.
    Two bins emptied fortnightly & the other two four weekly.
    I'll give it a try but I think we are going to have smells quite soon

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    Councils were formed to promote public health and weekly refuse collection only helps in this pursuit. A lot of people have sited higher recyling rates as a result of fortnightly collections, but surely it's not about the amount we recycle it's the excessive amount we consume in the first place, consequently leading to the waste that has to be disposed of. Consume less and improve public health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    £250 million put into perspective is just over two days worth of interest that we pay on the national debt. This is a tiny splash in a massive lake that simply isn't going to drain away. Perhaps Pickles et al could get down to start creating some proper jobs and leave the bins to the councils. Once a fortnight is perfectly adequate, I have a baby son and even with his nappies we manage fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    I think this is a good idea. For me the biggest plus would be that local councils could employ more binmen (or refuse person or whatever the pc term is). The wagons used for waste is different to recycling although I imagine the collectors are the same. By having both bins collected weekly the council would have to employ more people. Less people on the dole, exactly what everyone is arguing for!


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