10 July 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Coffey sees need for flexibility in waste contracts

Defra’s resources minister Thérèse Coffey has said that the Department will “take a dim view” of businesses preventing councils from altering contracts to make allowances for the government’s Resources & Waste Strategy.

However, the minister did not deny that councils may have to bear the cost for any changes to long-term waste contracts brought on as a result of the Strategy.

Dr Coffey urged business not to stand in the way of council’s looking to change waste contracts

The remarks came as part of an evidence session yesterday (July 9) during which the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee quizzed Dr Coffey over the impacts the strategy is likely to have on local authorities in England.

After being grilled by Clive Betts MP, the chair of the committee, on the prospect of councils having to make amendments to their existing contracts to implement measures set out in the strategy, Dr Coffey explained that she hopes that waste management companies wouldn’t want to stand in the way.

“I will take a very dim view of the waste management processors if they get in the way of a council trying to vary their contract, in an unfair way, in order to make sure we make improvements to waste management.

“We won’t want to end up in a legal situation but instead have a sensible way of going through the councils where it is an issue, and sit alongside them to discuss the best way forward.”

Negotiation

When pressed for specifics, Dr Coffey said she will not “get into a formula of how we will manage each individual situation”, but it is a case of the hands central government looking to get the best deal possible for taxpayers.

Clive Betts MP chairs the committee and quizzed Dr Coffey on various aspects of the Waste Strategy

The minister also said the government hasn’t responded to the consultation yet ”so can’t give a hypothetical answer without the details”, before going on to say that the government won’t advise councils on specific contracts, but warned them to “consider carefully” any new contracts in the next year or so to take into account the changes happening.

Without naming the council, the minister also hit out at one council which signed a 10-year deal recently without specifying for the collection of plastic pots, tubs and trays (PTT), but said she is in the process of “working with this council” over the issue.

Energy from waste

Earlier in the evidence session, Dr Coffey was questioned on the future role of energy from waste facilities, and if any more are needed given the estimates for recycling levels the government made as part of the strategy.

In response, the resources minister remarked that if the plan works there will be no need for additional capacity, but said she would “not be opposed” to the wider industry brining competition for local authorities for energy from waste capacity, but stressed that this would be up to councils.

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