What a load of rubbish
There is one service that, more than any other, excites the passions of our local populations.
Councils spend an inordinate amount of money picking up our rubbish and then, more importantly, finding somewhere to dispose of it. This is a very expensive business and also an issue of major environmental concern.
Which is why local authorities work very hard to manage the flow of rubbish, encourage recycling and generally try everything they can to reduce the amount of rubbish we are throwing into the ground or burning. The Government support this by charging councils for every tonne of rubbish we put into the ground and setting targets for things like recycling. In general dumping the rubbish is more expensive than collecting it.
The Government and local councils are in this together.
In local government, we know that if we don’t reduce the amount of rubbish we dump the costs will keep rising and long term providing a waste collection service will become unsustainable. Central Government need local government to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or the country will be in a very bad way.
So why, when we are in this together, have the DCLG and DEFRA taken the past week as an opportunity to fight with local government? Why is localism an appropriate response to most problems but not that of waste? Why are the market incentives so beloved of this Government not sufficient in this area? And why do their criticisms not make any sense with each other?
First there was Eric Pickles getting very upset with councils in Somerset who were planning to charge for people to use Somerset Community recycling centres (the dump to you or I).
Apparently, this created a perverse incentive which might lead to people not dumping when they should do. Somerset pointed out that these centres were marked for closure and so any charge was able to keep the centre open and thus meet a need. Who is right? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure both the local authority and Eric Pickles have the same aim so why is he getting involved?
Then on Sunday I woke up to hear five-live telling me that DEFRA, and in particular Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, was going to stop councils charging residents who break the rules on rubbish collections. Again, these fines are a reflection of local government trying to reduce residents breaking rubbish rules (ha ha) and fly tipping (although the ‘worst’ cases would still be finable; definition not provided).
It goes without saying that local authorities who have these fines tend to use them only for the worst offenders and do so to control the flow of waste.
So councils shouldn’t charge for people who want to dump or fine people who choose not to dump? Local government has, as a result of this week’s commentary, no option but to avoid any use of financial incentive to meet the waste challenge.
Which leads me to ask again: Why is localism an appropriate response to most problems but not that of waste? Why are the market incentives so beloved of this Government not sufficient in this area? And why do their criticisms not make any sense with each other?
I hope Caroline Spelman isn’t about to become the latest ‘let’s gain popularity by attacking local government’ proponent. I’m beginning to lose hope for Mr Pickles.