PICKLES CLEANING UP - 22 November 2012
Restore weekly bin collections or lose funds: Pickles orders councils to scrap fortnightly schemes
as health concerns abound.
Wants to prevent councils sending 'bin spies' to go through people's bins
At least half the homes in Britain - 10m - have lost their weekly collections
Councils who are refusing to reinstate weekly bin collections are today warned they face a cut in Government funding.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles says a voluntary scheme has ‘stopped the rot’ and prevented more councils switching to hugely unpopular fortnightly schemes.
But, in an article on this page, he threatens to go further - suggesting central Government grants to local authorities will be slashed in the long-term for those that refuse to bring back the weekly bin round.
Bin collections: Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles says a voluntary scheme has 'stopped the rot' and prevented more councils switching to hugely unpopular fortnightly schemes.
Mr Pickles is also changing the law to prevent councils sending ‘bin spies’ to rifle through people’s bins and issuing penalties for those deemed to have broken recycling rules.
At least half the homes in Britain - 10million households covered by 180 local authorities - have lost their weekly collections and now have general rubbish taken away only once every two weeks.
Once-a-week household rubbish collections came into law in 1875 to stamp out cholera and other plagues which claimed huge numbers of lives.
They were maintained until after Labour’s 1997 election victory, when local authorities were encouraged to collect household waste and recyclable rubbish on alternate weeks.
The Audit Commission downgraded councils in their inspections if they kept weekly collections and told them to adopt ‘progressive’ solutions of ‘only emptying the refuse bin on a fortnightly basis or issuing smaller bins’.
But homeowners quickly began to complain about rises in rat and pest populations, smells from food waste left uncollected for a fortnight, and a plethora of bin fines and taxes imposed on those who broke the rules.
Falling numbers: At least half the homes in Britain - 10million households covered by 180 local authorities - have lost their weekly collections and now have general rubbish taken away only once every two weeks.
Those who overfill bins or accidentally leave rubbish out on the wrong day have risked penalties of up to £1,000. The Daily Mail mounted a long-running campaign to have weekly collections restored.
The Coalition announced a £250million scheme to prevent more local authorities moving to fortnightly collections and persuade others to switch back.
Mr Pickles approved bids from 85 councils. Only five local authorities have restored weekly collections in full, though more have reintroduced weekly pick-ups of food waste and 41 have started reward schemes to encourage recycling.
He says the Government is now working with families to go green, rather than following Labour’s ‘punitive policies of fines and taxes’.
Over 6million households are now receiving a weekly collection of residual waste, he says, insisting that without the Government’s intervention, the weekly bin collection would have disappeared by 2015.
But he says there has been opposition to weekly collections from town hall bureaucrats and from waste industry ‘barons’ who see big money in fortnightly collections.
The minister’s threat to strip local authorities who do not switch back to weekly collections of some of their central government grants will infuriate council bosses.
But he insists radical further steps are required. The Local Government Secretary insists it is quite possible to increase recycling rates while also offering weekly collections of all rubbish.
He will point to the example of Windsor and Maidenhead, which has increased recycling by 35 per cent by offering households incentives such as shopping vouchers or loyalty card points.
Mr Pickles suggests councils should introduce innovative technology such as ‘mechanical biological treatment’ facilities, where rubbish is sorted mechanically into recyclable items and those that need to go to landfill.
He adds: ‘I am now giving my colleagues in local government fair warning about the way life is going. I don’t see it as a penalty. It’s a recognition that they have decided they don’t need the money designed to support weekly collections.’
Today I’m making it absolutely clear that it’s wholly unreasonable to expect Government grants to go, in the long term, to councils that are operating fortnightly bin collections.
That support is designed to provide weekly collections on the grounds of public health. This is a basic service that people expect.
I’m not going to do this immediately because I recognise councils have contracts that they may be bound into for some time.
But councils should be in no doubt that we will change the way this funding works.
'The public pay a lot of money in council tax - the typical bill is £120 a month.
I believe that people deserve proper frontline services in return'
The public pay a lot of money in council tax – the typical bill is £120 a month.
I believe that people deserve proper frontline services in return and there is nothing more essential than regular rubbish and recycling collections.
Under Labour, council tax doubled and bin collections halved.
Town hall bureaucrats spied on residents and fined them if they made a simple mistake of breaking barmy and complex rules and regulations.
Fortnightly collections weren’t a local choice - Labour politicians and Whitehall pen-pushers cajoled and bullied councils into cutting collections.
The Government’s bin quango, WRAP, told councils to make the cuts after local elections - to avoid democratic opposition.
Another quango, the Audit Commission, marked down councils in their Whitehall inspections if they didn’t adopt fortnightly collections.
It was Disraeli’s Public Health Act 1875 which introduced a duty on local authorities to collect rubbish.
This was enhanced by the Conservative-led Government’s Public Health Act 1936, obliging councils to collect household waste weekly.
'It was Disraeli’s Public Health Act 1875 which introduced a duty on local authorities to collect rubbish'.
Then, in a 2001 Whitehall restructuring, Tony Blair split waste policy away from local government services – and cuts to services began.
For all of Labour’s talk on human rights, I believe it’s a fundamental right for every Englishman and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait two weeks for it to be collected.
So, back in 2008, David Cameron pledged to Daily Mail readers that we sack Labour’s trash policy of imposing fortnightly rubbish collections for one and all.
We have delivered on that pledge, as well as scrapping Labour’s plans for new bin taxes, and are changing the law to ban unfair bin fines.
We have also now delivered a quarter-of-a-billion-pound fund which will help councils support weekly collections.
This cash comes on top of the standard funding councils already get from us and from £23billion of taxpayers’ money raised via council tax.
Our Weekly Collection Support Scheme will help more than 6million households across England receive a weekly collection, and champion innovation and new technology.
'I’ve little doubt that, without our decisive action, the weekly bin collection in England would have gone for good by the end of this Parliament'
There are a further 4million households continuing to receive weekly collections outside this scheme.
I’ve little doubt that, without our decisive action, the weekly bin collection in England would have gone for good by the end of this Parliament, looking at the experience of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
The usual suspects have been out in force to say we can’t have weekly bins – Industry bin barons who smell the whiff of easy money in fortnightly collections and municipal bin bullies.
They want you to believe the fortnightly collection is the only way. In reality, it was their failure to negotiate decent contracts that lead to unnecessary expense.
Weekly collections can actually be cheaper. So this scheme has bagged the Labour myth that fortnightly rubbish collections are needed to increase recycling or save money.
I will now be working with Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, to spread best practice on weekly collections, change dyed-in-the-wool attitudes and challenge shoddy and shady municipal practices.
Despite the need to tackle Labour’s deficit, councils across England this year will still be spending £114billion – roughly £5,000 per household.
I will be asking why councils can’t provide a weekly collection in return for their central government funding.
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