The government has pledged to “review arrangements” to engage with local government on the implementation of its Resources and Waste Strategy.
The comments came as the government responded to an enquiry from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HGLC). The Committee had questioned the level of flexibility given to councils to allow them to meet recycling targets, as well as raising concerns about the funding for the proposed changes (see letsrecycle.com story).
In its response, published on Tuesday, 19 May, the government said that it has to take the lead on setting sustainability goals, ensuring compliance with international obligations, but did pledge to “review arrangements” to engage with local government representatives.
However, the government said it agrees with the Committee’s comments that there is a balance to be struck between local decision making and what the government sees as necessary to increase the quantity and quality of recycling.
On funding, the government said it will work closely with local authorities to decide how best to introduce the proposals from 2023, taking into consideration commitments from pre-existing contracts.
“Where contracts may be affected by changes in law we would want to work with parties to resolve concerns and to ensure new duties can be incorporated effectively,” the response said.
In March 2019, the HGLC launched its inquiry to examine how the strategy is likely to affect council services (see letsrecycle.com story).
Following a four month enquiry, the committee wrote to Rishi Sunak, then under-secretary of state for local government, outlining its initial conclusions and recommendations (see letsrecycle.com story).
This stated a number of points which were later published in more depth in September 2019.
The committee raised 11 points it wished the government to address, including:
- At times, the government’s Waste Strategy seeks to dictate waste collection systems that would be better determined by local decision makers
- The government should invite local authority representatives to review the data that informed their funding estimates, publish these and commit to providing any additional funding that is deemed to be required
- The government has not made a strong case for the implementation of separate weekly food waste collections
- The government is wrong to insist that local authorities collect residual waste at least every two weeks
- The government should listen to local authorities and defer the implementation of a deposit return scheme (DRS) for the time being
- The government should undertake a review of funding levels through the EPR at least every two years, providing top-up funding to local authorities if this becomes necessary
In a near 7,000 word response, the government said it has addressed each of the points raised by the committee.
“Discussions with local government and industry stakeholders demonstrated that there is support…for central government to take a lead”
The government says it disagrees with the committee’s conclusion that its Resources and Waste Strategy has sought to dictate from the centre what is best decided at local level.
“Our consultations on producer responsibility and consistency, alongside discussions with local government and industry stakeholders demonstrated that there is support from producers, the public and local authorities for central government to take a lead,” the government said.
On food waste, the government says its analysis shows that if all local authorities provided at least kerbside properties with a separate food waste collection service, this would increase the amount of food waste collected by 1.35 million tonnes by 2029.
“There is potential to collect much more unavoidable food waste from households and to have this recycled to produce biomethane and digestate which can be spread to land in accordance with good practice,” the government said.
And the response said the government has been “clear that we believe local authorities are best placed to understand their local circumstances”.
“Having said that, local authorities will be required to collect glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste and garden waste for recycling, as set out in the Environment Bill.”
The HCLGC is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the ministry of housing, communities and local government. Membership current is 11 MPs, split between 6 Conservative and five Labour.
The government’s full response document can be read here.