millions of pounds from council budgets - leaving town halls with a
difficult choice between slashing services or passing costs on to council
tax payers, the Local Government Association warned today.
Anticipating the government's response to a consultation on the Landfill
Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS), expected this week, local government
leaders said all services, not just waste, could suffer cuts if councils
fall behind in implementing the new system. The only alternative facing
councils would be to pass the extra costs on to local people.
Under the scheme, local authorities who fail to meet Whitehall targets for
diverting biodegradable municipal waste such as paper and food from landfill
sites will be forced to buy permits from councils who have exceeded their
goals - effectively transferring cash from those councils who most need the
money to deliver waste services to those which are already on course to meet
Although LATS is set to begin in 2005/06, it is estimated that up to ten
years are needed to build new facilities to divert biodegradable waste from
landfill - leaving many councils facing inevitable penalties. Even local
authorities who have planned in good faith could face millions of pounds
worth of fines, the LGA warns.
The association is calling on ministers to provide substantial extra
funding, flexibility and support to help councils meet the new targets
rather than burdening them with additional unavoidable costs.
Ken Manton, chair of the LGA's waste and environmental management
executive, said: 'Waste funding is already squeezed by government priority
areas like education and social services. Forcing councils to pay
unavoidable extra costs through compulsory paid-for permits - effectively
fining them - will only make the situation worse.
'Local authorities are committed to reducing the a mount of rubbish sent to
landfill sites and boosting recycling rates. But ironically, LATS means that
scarce resources will be spent buying landfill permits rather than
delivering the targets themselves. And it will hit those councils who most
need to invest in waste services hardest of all.
'Even a slight delay in putting the technology in place to divert
biodegradable waste from landfill could mean local authorities are hit with
additional unfunded costs running into millions of pounds.
'One unitary and county authority team that has put plans in place to meet
the LATS targets predicts it could face costs of£13m over two years
alone if implementation is delayed by 18 months(3).
'Planning is made even harder by the fact that councils have been given no
idea how much the permits will cost or what their tonnage allowances for
biodegradable waste will be.
'The LGA is doing all it can to identify and support councils who are in
danger of missing the new landfill targets. Now ministers need to play their
part by providing flexibility and extra funding for councils, rather than
stripping them of valuable resources when they need them most.'
1. The LGA believes more funding is urgently needed to meet national and EU
waste targets. With the volume of waste rising by around three per cent each
year, soaring collection and disposal costs and a host of upcoming EU
directives which will place new obligations on all authorities to improve
standards of waste collection and disposal, councils face a huge challenge
to keep ahead of the game. Without more funding to invest in new
infrastructure and waste management methods as well as keep up with higher
day-to-day costs, local aspirations and national targets will not be met.
2. The LGA estimates that an additional£1.44bn will be needed for
waste management during the period 2005/06 to 2007/08. Put another way, by
2007/08, councils will need an extra h alf a billion pounds each year over
and above the amount they receive now.
3. The unavoidable costs will be incurred by the local authority team
referred to because they will have to buy additional allowances - in effect
a financial penalty. The calculation was made on the basis of an estimated
cost of£100 per tonne for extra allowances. At present local authorities
have been given no idea of what allowances will cost.