Posted tagged ‘weekly waste collection’

Council Tax Conundrum

October 4, 2011

Do not pass go but we'll give you £72

After feeling rather hard done by over the past few weeks as first the Liberal Democrats and then the Labour Party more or less ignored Local Government at their party conferences the Conservatives have sought to redress the balance and then some in the first few days of their conference. What’s more, announcements about council tax, waste and the right to buy have come before Mr Pickles has even had his moment in the conference spotlight.

Despite being pleased about the rightful focus on local government, alongside the many other important issues discussed, over the past few days the local government announcements have left me feeling a little conflicted. The policy on weekly waste collection was ridiculous and the policy on right to buy and house building is a classic ‘devil is in the detail’ announcement. Which leaves council tax and on this I can’t help but feel a little let down.

First the positive news:

  • The Government is providing local councils with over £800 million. This money is new money.
  • Many councillors were feeling very twitchy about raising council tax this year and it is entirely possible that a 2.5% increase is more than many councils would have got had the decision been left to the councillors.

So far so good.

However, let’s not pretend that a 2.5% increase makes much of a difference to the council budget.

(Here comes the science bit)

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Waste War-Chest

October 3, 2011

I really really want to to like you and yet every time....

In case anyone missed it Mr Pickles has established a £250 million fund which he will use to assist local authorities to reinstate weekly bin collections. Mr Pickles apparently ‘raided every biscuit tin’ in the DCLG to find the money for his number 1 priority and stated that having your bin collected weekly is a ‘basic right’.

The reasons that Mr Pickles is wrong are almost too many to mention but as a quick top seven, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. Having your bin collected every week is not a basic right, genuinely.
  2. Having your bin collected every week is a high priority in a lot of areas but is not in others.
  3. A true localist would let the local community, and their council, decide whether or not to have a weekly collection
  4. Many councils are contemplating severe cuts to many other services (such as social care). Surely, if there was a biscuit tin to raid he could have found something better to spend it on.
  5. Weekly bin collections usually lead to less recycling and more landfill which is both bad for the environment and expensive (due to the landfill tax). Councils are likely to be placed in a very awkward position but this policy.
  6. Some councils still have a weekly bin collection and are probably the councils who most need a weekly collection and yet they are the least likely to be eligible for the money. Those that don’t ‘need’ such a collection will get money to reinstate it.
  7. The pot will only be available for a council who ‘bids’ for the money. I spy a very bureaucratic procedure with scoring criteria and lots of forms; surely this is in very real contrast to what the Government stands for?

So, if the announcement and the allocation of a quarter of a billion pounds was so obviously wrongheaded we need to ask; why exactly did he do it?

I have a theory. It’s not much of a theory but here goes. Eric Pickles genuinely believed that what he was doing was a) the right thing to do and b) that it would be popular. Let me explain:

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