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MPs WARNED OF WASTE CHARGE COST

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'Pay as you throw' administration costs could swallow up savings...
'Pay as you throw' administration costs could swallow up savings

By Jo Stephenson

The costs of administering 'pay as you throw' charges for waste disposal could swallow up any landfill tax savings, councils warned MPs this week.

Local government would get new powers to charge extra for rubbish collections under proposals due to be unveiled by the government today alongside its new waste strategy.

But the costs and practicalities of collecting fees, dealing with disputes and chasing bad debts could make charging schemes unworkable, MPs were told.

The Department for Communities & Local Government select committee heard evidence this week as part of its inquiry into refuse collections.

Stephen Didsbury, head of waste and street services at Bexley BC, representing the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said charging should be an option.

However he warned councils 'could end up paying more' because of the high costs of

administration.

Paul Bettison (Con), chairman of the LGA's environment board, said the association was in favour of local government having the power. But the Bracknell Forest BC leader said he would not use it in his own authority.

Extra charges for waste collection are the norm in the rest of Europe, where families pay by either the weight or volume of waste they produce.

The Lyons Inquiry concluded charges would be a 'powerful incentive' for residents to reduce the amount of waste they produce and help councils reduce rubbish going to landfill.

But committee members feared this could penalise large families on low incomes and lead to more illegal dumping.

Stephen Burton, London Councils' head of policy for transport, environment and planning, told LGC administration costs would be a concern.

'That's particularly true in London, where we've got a highly mobile population. It's difficult enough collecting council tax. To have to collect another charge would be an extra burden that creates extra bureaucracy,' he said.

Committee member DavidWright MP (Lab) suggested there would be more merit

in incentives for people to recycle more.

'The kids in my area would be roaming the streets for card and bottles and giving them in if there was a discount system,' he said.

Environment secretary David Miliband was expected to urge councils to make the most of waste as part of the strategy due to be published today by the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

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