Local authorities ‘disappointed’ at DCLG delay

LARAC berates DCLGThe Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has said it is ‘disappointed’ in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG’s) continued delay in announcing which local authorities have been successful in their bids for Weekly Collection Support Scheme funding.

The £250 million scheme, commonly known as the ‘Pickles’s fund’ (after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who backed the scheme), was set up to provide local authorities with the funds to reinstate weekly collections of household waste and recycling, which Pickles called a ‘basic right’.

The fund was considered by many to be a waste of money after Icaro Consulting’s 2011 report 'Attitudes to Waste and Recycling in Great Britain', found that the top 10 recycling councils in the country operate either AWC (alternate weekly collection) with weekly recyclables collection or AWC with a weekly food collection. The report also concluded that 74 per cent of households with AWC were satisfied with their current set up (compared to 83 per cent with a weekly collection).

Further, a survey by the Sunday Telegraph found that of the 184 English councils that applied, just one authority – Gloucester City Council – wanted to use the money to restore a weekly residual waste collection via newer, smaller bins. The rest, it found, were applying for the money to help expand various recycling schemes or to purchase infrastructure to bring down collection costs.

Joy Blizzard, Chair of LARAC, said: “£250 million is a vast amount of money… if some of it had been put in to campaigning about waste prevention to begin with, we would have saved ourselves a lot of these problems.”

Applications for the controversial fund had to be submitted by 11 May and an announcement on successful bids was expected in October (according to the Supporting Weekly Collections Prospectus). However, the DCLG has yet to announce which bids have been successful, which LARAC says is causing ‘uncertainty over service delivery’.

LARAC Vice Chair and Policy Officer Mark Foxall has berated the DCLG delay, saying: “The bidding timetable given by DCLG was challenging given the complex and detailed information required. Bidding local authorities rose to that challenge well, providing good quality bids and so, particularly as the time in this financial year in which to deliver projects is diminishing, local authorities are disappointed that announcements on successful bids have not yet been made. Council budgets are currently being set for 2013/14; for those bidding authorities waiting upon a decision from DCLG their budget setting is proving problematic as uncertainty over service delivery remains.  

“There is a risk that authorities are deferring the implementation of service improvement changes not reliant on grant funding, whilst awaiting to hear whether their bid is successful or not. DCLG have already been advised by authorities that there is a risk that the supply chain may not be able to respond well to increased demand following grant awards. Vehicle and container suppliers are already quoting a six-month lead time for some products and this is likely to increase with a sudden spike in demand, the outcome being that some projects may struggle to be delivered given the tight timetable DCLG has set and its delay in an announcement on bids."

A spokesperson for the DCLG said that an announcement was expected ‘shortly’ and that applicants should ‘watch this space’. There has been no explanation for the delay.

Read more about the Weekly Collection Support Scheme.