The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has warned that the government’s recently-published Resources and Waste Strategy risks placing a “needless burden” on local authorities.
The report says that by enforcing a “prescriptive national approach” to recycling and waste management, such as collection frequency or which services should or should not be charged for, the strategy does not allow the “flexibility” for councils to react to local conditions.
The Government is seeking to require local authorities to introduce between one and three recycling bins, on top of residual waste, food waste and garden waste bins. As such, every household would be required to have between four and six bins.
The Government should not seek to dictate that which is best determined by local decision makers
However, the Committee expressed its doubts that councils want to ask their residents to store six separate bins outside or inside their homes, particularly in urban areas where space is likely to be more limited.
Even four receptacles—the minimum the Government is proposing—will be challenging in many circumstances, it says.
It says a “balance” must be struck between requiring local authorities to improve recycling and waste management, and the ability of local councils to decide the most effective way of achieving this.
The Committee said: “Needlessly rigid demands on local authorities will prevent them from using their local knowledge to provide services that match local need, and most importantly provide value for money for tax payers.
“Waste collection is one of the most tangible services that local communities receive from their councils and it is they who will be accountable at the ballot box.”
Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts MP said: “The Government should not seek to dictate that which is best determined by local decision makers.
“In determining how often waste should be collected, the number of recycling bins or what services should be charged for, the Government appears to have forgotten that what works in rural areas may not be suitable for cities. Local authorities understand what the challenges are in their areas and should be given the freedom to tailor their approach to meet them.
“Equally, the Government must ensure that the funding is there that will allow local authorities to rise to the challenge. It will require significant investment to improve recycling infrastructure, and ongoing waste management costs arising from the Government’s proposals will be higher.
“The Government has indicated it will provide more funding, but they must demonstrate that this will be adequate in the long-term. Local authorities are already struggling, they cannot be expected to shoulder further burden without extra resourcing.”
The Committee also says more information is needed on the additional sources of funding that local authorities will receive to meet the additional costs arising from the Waste Strategy, including set-up costs and ongoing operation.
Local authority representatives should be allowed to scrutinise the data that informed the Government’s proposals and assess if additional funding is likely to be needed, it says.
It also says the proposed Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme – through which producers will “bear a greater responsibility for the disposal of the materials they introduce into the system” – is welcomed, but must “prove a reliable, long term source of income”.
It says there should be “greater clarity” on how this money will be passed on to local authorities and the Government should commit to undertaking a regular review of the funding levels it delivers.
The Committee report also claims existing recycling infrastructure is “inadequate” to meet ambitious targets and significant investment (potentially, £20 billion) will be needed.
The Government will need to work with the industry to ensure that the right infrastructure is in the right places, and set-up at a reasonable cost, it says.
The Government should also commit to covering any costs for infrastructure improvement so that it does not get passed on to local authorities, producers or consumers.