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By Matthew George, parliamentary correspondent ...
By Matthew George, parliamentary correspondent

The Conservatives have warned the government will pursue its efficiency goals by pushing costs on to councils.

The allegation came as the Tories launched findings from their investigation into Whitehall waste, conducted by economist David James.

Published in instalments, the latest chapter of the James report focused on the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

It denounced the£300m waste-service savings the government charged Defra in its own efficiency review, carried out by Office of Government Commerce chief executive Sir Peter Gershon.

The Tories claimed the£300m could only be achieved by leaving councils underfunded, and that they could make£477m of savings on Defra activities through different means.

Shadow environment secretary Tim Yeo said: 'We are concerned the UK's recycling rates are lagging behind many other countries, while the government is behind the curve in its preparations for implementing the landfill directive and the hazardous-waste directive.

'We are surprised they think they can save£300m, and expect they will transfer the burden to council tax payers.

'We have seen in the past a pattern of savings on central government functions by transferring the function to councils without the funding.'

In his report on public sector efficiency, which accompanied July's spending review, Sir Peter said the sum could be delivered by working with councils to make savings on waste services.

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