Headlines: September 12th, 2007

Consultations on the idea of charging people according to the amount of rubbish they create have been branded a red herring by the New Local Government Network, which says councils need to begin a deeper conversation with local people on how to meet the long-term challenges of waste.

In a new pamphlet it suggests that the level of any individual waste charge or incentives for recycling would be too small to bring about changes in residents’ behaviour and would, on its own, be unlikely to deliver significant financial or environmental benefits to an area. Instead, the pamphlet says, where a local authority wants to bring in a scheme as part of a wider strategy, it should operate at ward and community level. This, it argues, would be simpler and more cost effective and would help to build community spirit and bring about more tangible rewards for successful wards. The Network is also urging councils to avoid the administrative and financial burden of a complex charging scheme and to use the opportunity created by the current debate to have a more comprehensive conversation with their electorate on difficult long-term choices that will be necessary to really meet the waste challenge.

Anthony Brand, the author of ‘How can we refuse?’, said councils should work out and distribute ward level recycling rates so that incentives, such as a proportion of cost savings or charges, could be distributed to the wards that show the greatest improvement. That money could be spent in ways decided in consultation with local residents. “As a nation we remain ill-informed about the real costs of waste disposal, the techniques already used widely elsewhere in Europe and the real financial and environmental consequences of doing nothing. The emergence of the national charging debate presents an opportunity to set this right,” he said.