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LANDFILL TARGETS COULD DRAIN MILLIONS FROM COUNCIL BUDGETS

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Government landfill targets set to be introduced next year could drain ...
Government landfill targets set to be introduced next year could drain

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

government targets.

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.'

NOTES

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.

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