Community secretary Eric Pickles’ prolonged campaign to rid England of alternate weekly rubbish rounds looks set to end in failure, exclusive research suggests.
Of 251 councils included in an analysis of bids to the £250m weekly collection support scheme, just one, Labour-run Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said its bid proposed moving from residual – or black bag – rubbish being collected on a fortnightly basis to a weekly basis - the type of move the fund was set up to encourage.
More than half the councils surveyed by LGC’s sister publication, Materials Recycling World did not submit any bid at all.
And of the 110 councils which did bid, 70% of the proposed projects were not directly related to keeping or returning to a weekly residual waste collection, the research suggests.
MRW sent Freedom of Information requests to all English councils:
- Of the 251 councils which responded, 141 said they had not bid
- Just 30% of the 110 bids submitted were from councils attempting to retain a weekly residual collection
- Stoke was the sole respondent bidding to ditch an alternate weekly round in favour of a weekly collection
- Some 61% of Tory councils which responded did not bid
- Some 38% of applicants were from councils looking to fund food waste collections
The Department for Communities & Local Government claimed the results gave “an incomplete and inaccurate picture” despite the research having analysed responses from more than 70% of English councils.
Some councils that submitted bids for food collections did already offer a weekly black bag round, but were not looking for cash or pledging to maintain this service. Instead they had applied for funding for other recycling services, such as food, nappy or garden waste collections. Other bids included Eastleigh DC’s request for cash to build an anaerobic digestion plant.
The analysis followed Mr Pickles’ announcement last week that the department had received 166 bids from councils.
DCLG said in May it had received 180 expressions of interest and that “nearly two thirds came from authorities that want to retain or reinstate weekly collections to offer more comprehensive collections of residual waste and recycling for their residents”.
But MRW’s analysis of the outline bids that councils submitted to DCLG in May, suggests the likely impact on councils operating an alternate weekly bin collections, which Mr Pickles has vehemently criticised, would be limited.
Giving evidence to the communities and local government select committee in December, David Prout, DCLG’s director general of localism, appeared to rule out bids that applied to have food waste collected on a weekly basis whilst retaining alternate weekly residual collections being successful.
“It’s about three things: it’s about reinstating or retaining a weekly black bag collection - in other words, so you as a household get your rubbish collected every week - and it’s about improving environmental performance, and it’s about improving value for money,” he told the committee.
Those hoping for a slice of the cash are currently finalising bids for an August deadline with successful bidders expected to be announced in the autumn.
Sector experts called on Mr Pickles to back councils looking to install food waste collections, which he included as an option following pressure from the waste industry and - according to Whitehall sources - Defra.
Consultant Philip Ward, a former WRAP and Defra official, told MRW councils had given a clear steer that their intent was to use the cash for weekly food waste rather than residual waste.
Mr Ward said: “They can see it is the best way to deal with smelly waste and improve the value of their other collected materials. Hopefully a minister who professes to believe in localism will back these authorities and stop trying to bribe councils to do what he wants.”
A DCLG spokesman said: “The department has already set out we have received 166 different bids, in total £430m of funding.
“This enthusiasm shows there is significant scope for councils to increase recycling rates and improve front-line services without cutting the frequency of rubbish collections. The government believes every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week.”