17 September 2020 by James Langley

Defra surveys Covid-19 waste budget impact

A survey of all English councils is currently underway, seeking to understand whether they have taken a financial hit in providing waste services during the pandemic.

The survey is being carried out by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and will be used to establish whether a policy response is necessary to mitigate increased costs or reduced income.

Defra’s survey will be used to establish whether a policy response is necessary to mitigate increased costs or reduced income

The introduction to the survey reads: “The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is carrying out a one-off, voluntary survey of all English local authorities. The purpose of the survey is to understand whether local authorities have experienced, or expect to experience, greater financial cost or reduced income in providing waste services as a result of having to manage impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The results of this survey will help government understand the array of costs or losses of income local authorities face with respect to waste, and therefore whether a policy response is necessary to mitigate increased costs or reduced income (if any).”

Defra asks that the survey is completed by the relevant representative within the local authority. Once completed, results will not be made publicly available, Defra says.

The survey is to close at 6pm on 25 September. It can be accessed here.

Survey

The survey asks respondents to quantify increased costs of providing waste services due to the pandemic as a percentage.

It suggests potential reasons for an increase in costs, such as having to implement an online booking system for household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) or having to hire agency staff.

Respondents are then asked to rank the top three reasons for the greater costs.

Financial impact

An investigation conducted by letsrecycle.com in July found councils may have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt as a result of the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic (see letsrecycle.com story). Letsrecycle.com learnt waste and recycling budgets could suffer, with councils saying they had been left with large budget deficits as the cost of dealing with rising household waste volumes increases, while other revenue streams have fallen.

The pandemic is believed to have cost the Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) alone more than £3 million in additional expenditure (see letsrecycle.com story).

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