An announcement from DCLG officials at the communities and local government select committee has at last started to cast light on what Eric Pickles’ controversial £250m fund to support local authorities who retain or reinstate weekly waste collections may actually cover.
“It’s about three things”, said David Prout, director general of localism. “It’s about reinstating or retaining a weekly black bag collection – in other words, so you as a household get your rubbish collected every week – and it’s about improving environmental performance, and it’s about improving value for money,”
It is hard to argue against saving money or improving performance – indeed, my colleagues and I at Eunomia work hard to help councils do just that. But championing weekly refuse collection pushes in the opposite direction – it costs more, and it leads to worse environmental performance. Constraining the space available to householders to throw things away is an extremely effective way to encourage more thought regarding how to dispose of waste.
Perhaps he’s pitching for the Daily Mail audience, but judging by the tone of the comments on this article, there is by no means unanimous support for his approach from that constituency. Indeed, one of the few groups that seems to match Pickles’ obsession is the Taxpayers Alliance, who seem to view utopia as a place with one bin per household collected as frequently as possible, and at no extra cost – as it’s a service “we’ve already paid for” through our council tax.
No wonder there’s little enthusiasm from Councils for taking up the fund. In fact, it makes you wonder whether Pickles even expects to get any takers for his £250m, or whether the whole thing is designed to shore up support without spending any money.