ESA criticises Labour plan to push councils towards in-house waste services

The Labour Party is “putting ideology ahead of evidence” with its proposal to push councils into bringing services such as waste and recycling back in-house, according to the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

In a speech on Saturday (20 July), Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Andrew Gwynne MP, said the Labour Party would pass a new Local Public Services Act to “make in-house the new normal” and end what it calls the “racket” of contracting local public services to private companies.

According to the party’s new policy, in-house delivery of local public services will become the default option for councils, with services expected to be brought back in-house when existing contracts come to an end or are lawfully terminated.

A Biffa employee collects bins.Councils will be allowed to continue to contract services if they comply with a set of minimum standards for contracts based on wages, hours of work and terms and conditions being no less favourable than they would be if services were provided in-house.

The announcement, however, has not been welcomed by the ESA, whose members include many of the waste management companies that provide waste and recycling services for councils.

Commenting on the policy, ESA Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “It is very disappointing that the Labour opposition is putting ideology ahead of evidence when it comes to outsourcing waste and recycling collections.

“ESA and its members have asked independent consultants to investigate the role and impact of competition on collection services. Early findings from that research suggest that competition leads to higher recycling rates and better value for money for councils and their residents.

“ESA’s members have a strong track record at implementing service change in collections and driving up performance. Their experience will be more important than ever as we all strive to meet the recycling ambitions in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.”

In April last year, ESA launched a campaign to promote the use of outsourcing by local authorities as a way to make cost savings and drive innovations after a number of councils – such as Blackpool, Slough, Powys, East Cambridgeshire, Rushmoor and Bristol – have made the move to bring their waste services back in-house, both to drive down costs and to remove themselves from inflexible long-term contracts.

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