Rubbish row

THE Government should not be having to pay local authorities to provide weekly bin collections. This service should be a matter of routine following the doubling of most council tax bills over the past decade.

That said, the only reason why Ministers and town halls have conflicting priorities is because the muddled nature of policy-making has seen councils implement refuse and recycling policies that vary markedly between neighbouring districts.

It is why some councils have encountered few complaints by providing a fortnightly collection service – this approach is underpinned by a pragmatic approach to recycling – while other authorities, like Leeds, struggle repeatedly to empty the bins each week.

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Having hinted at changes prior to the local elections, presumably to appease voters, it remains to be seen whether the Department of Communities and Local Government can stump up any meaningful money when its officials have spent £1m on taxpayer-funded credit cards.

It is said that Eric Pickles, the Cabinet Minister responsible for local authorities, is exasperated that town halls are failing to raise their game after instructing the Audit Commission last year to scrap rules governing bin collections.

He believes that councils have not done enough to provide the standard of service that the public expects. That may be so. But the one-time Bradford Council leader overlooks two crucial points. First, town halls are implementing spending cuts which are unprecedented in scale. Second, Mr Pickles has spent the past year advocating the concept of ‘localism’. If this is so, it should, therefore, be up to individual councils – and not Ministers – to set priorities that reflect the specific needs of local areas.