UK Politics

Ministers: £250m will help fund weekly bin collections

  • 30 September 2011
  • From the section UK Politics
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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".

"[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.

'Stunt'

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".

"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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