THE Government is battling to save its flagship weekly bin collection policy after Ministers were unable to name a single council which had committed to the scheme and all but one Yorkshire authority ruled themselves out.
The controversial £250m proposal to get town halls to restore the service has provoked a storm of criticism, with accusations the Government should not be funding additional waste collections given the economic crisis.
Now the Yorkshire Post can reveal only one of the region’s councils has voiced any interest – North East Lincolnshire – while the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) failed to provide details of any local authority in England that had made a firm commitment.
Furthermore the leader of North East Lincolnshire, Councillor Chris Shaw, said they were forced to pull the plan from their budget after learning funding would not be available for the start of the financial year. “It’s ridiculous – how can you budget for something when there is no guarantee of the money being in place?”
He added: “It would have left a £250,000 hole in our budget.
“We will keep an eye on it and may consider a bid later in the year, but could hardly put forward a financial plan with a note saying we hope this money comes through in the autumn.”
A DCLG spokesman said: “Councils were told that the money would be available in the next financial year, we did not specify that it would be at the start of the financial year.
“Further information on this hasn’t yet been announced though, so I am unable to provide information about how many councils have applied for the funding.”
The Government, which launched the bidding process for the scheme yesterday, claimed “a wide range of councils” have signalled informal interest, yet the policy was widely discredited in Yorkshire where many of the region’s councils, particularly those in rural areas such as Tory-controlled Hambleton and Ryedale and independently run Richmondshire, have been running fortnightly collections for nearly a decade.
Ryedale leader Keith Knaggs said: “The kind of funding on offer would come nowhere near the substantial cost of reverting to weekly collections in a sparsely-populated rural area.”
And three councils which currently have weekly collections – Leeds, Sheffield and Harrogate – are looking to move in the opposite direction and introduce a fortnightly system.
Don Mackenzie, leader of Harrogate Council, said: “We have weekly collections but our view is that picking up every two weeks is a great incentive to recycle.
“We intend to extend our recycling programme to start collecting cardboard and plastics from the kerbside – the trade off for that will be we go to fortnightly for general waste.”
Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “I have asked questions in Parliament and they couldn’t name one council that is currently running fortnightly collections and will change back to weekly. It is a shambles.
“This is not localism, it is not giving power back to councils, it is centralised localism – attempting to direct what local councils do, to skew them to what the Government wants by offering financial incentive.”