Headlines: October 26th, 2007

The Government’s facing a call from local authorities to clarify its position on allowing councils to charge for rubbish collections as a way of encouraging householders to recycle more. The plea from the Local Government Association came as the Government seemed to be defending its plans to allow ‘pay as you throw’ schemes in spite of reports that it had shelved the idea.

Reports had claimed an announcement on the plans due yesterday had been postponed and one think-tank, the New Local Government Network welcomed those suggestions. Its director, Chris Leslie, urged the Government to keep open the option of rewarding whole neighbourhoods for minimising waste rather than charging or rewarding individuals.

Meanwhile the LGA’s Environment Board chair, Paul Bettison, said it was time for the Government to clarify its position and to give councils the power to tackle ‘ England ‘s growing waste mountain’. Such powers, he said, would be used to promote recycling and not as a so-called stealth tax to raise revenue. “‘Councils, not central government, should have ‘save-as-you-throw’ powers, but it is vital that any authority thinking of introducing save-as-you-throw should first make sure there’ll be no overall increase in council tax, it has public support and measures are in place to prevent fly tipping,” he said.

Councillor Bettison also accepted that in some parts of the country incentive schemes would not be appropriate but evidence from Europe had shown that they could cut waste and boost recycling. “Councils and council tax payers are facing fines of up to three billion pounds if we do not dramatically reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfill, and so it is vital we look at alternatives to the status quo,” he said.

DEFRA has denied that any decision has been reached on possible charges and dismissed claims that an announcement had been delayed. In the House of Commons the Conservative MP Nigel Evans called for compensation for authorities, such as Ribble Valley council in his constituency, which had already spent money putting electronic chips into wheelie bins to be ready to implement charges.