LGA raises the alarm over landfill targets

Concern is growing over landfill policy in the UK as the July deadline for the implementation of the Landfill Directive fast approaches. Latest to raise the alarm is the Local Government Association, Focussing on Government landfill targets set to be introduced next year the LGA says that they could could "drain millions of pounds from council budgets - leaving town halls with a difficult choice between slashing services or passing costs on to council tax payers." LAWE reports on the LGA's view as part of a special feature on landfill Management

Anticipating the government’s response to a consultation on the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS), local government leaders said all services, not just waste, could suffer cuts if councils fall behind in implementing the new system. The only alternative facing councils would be to pass the extra costs on to local people.
Under the scheme, the LGA says local authorities who fail to meet Whitehall targets for diverting biodegradable municipal waste such as paper and food from landfill sites will be forced to buy permits from councils who have exceeded their goals – effectively transferring cash from those councils who most need the money to deliver waste services to those which are already on course to meet government targets.

The LGA states that, although LATS is set to begin in 2005/06, it is estimated that up to ten years are needed to build new facilities to divert biodegradable waste from landfill – leaving many councils facing inevitable penalties. Even local authorities who have planned in good faith could face millions of pounds’ worth of fines.

Extra funding

The association is calling on ministers to provide substantial extra funding, flexibility and support to help councils meet the new targets rather than burdening them with additional unavoidable costs.

Cllr Ken Manton, Chair of the LGA’s Waste and Environmental Management Executive, said: “Waste funding is already squeezed by government priority areas like education and social services. Forcing councils to pay unavoidable extra costs through compulsory paid-for permits – ffectively fining them – will only make the situation worse.

“Local authorities are committed to reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites and boosting recycling rates. But, ironically, LATS means that scarce resources will be spent buying landfill permits rather than delivering the targets themselves. And it will hit those councils who most need to invest in waste services hardest of all.

“Even a slight delay in putting the technology in place to divert biodegradable waste from landfill could mean local authorities are hit with additional unfunded costs running into millions of pounds.

“One unitary and county authority team that has put plans in place to meet the LATS targets predicts it could face costs of £13 million over two years alone if implementation is delayed by 18 months.

“Planning is made even harder by the fact that councils have been given no idea how much the permits will cost or what their tonnage allowances for biodegradable waste will be.

“The LGA is doing all it can to identify and support councils who are in danger of missing the new landfill targets. Now ministers need to play their part by providing flexibility and extra funding for councils, rather than stripping them of valuable resources when they need them most.”

Need for funding

The LGA believes more funding is urgently needed to meet national and EU waste targets. With the volume of waste rising by around three per cent each year, soaring collection and disposal costs and a host of upcoming EU directives which will place new obligations on all authorities to improve standards of waste collection and disposal, councils face a huge challenge to keep ahead of the game. Without more funding to invest in new infrastructure and waste management methods as well as keep up with higher day-to-day costs, local aspirations and national targets will not be met.

The LGA estimates that an additional £1.44 billion will be needed for waste management during the period 2005/06 to 2007/08. Put another way, by 2007/08, councils will need an extra half a billion pounds each year over and above the amount they receive now.

The LGA adds that the unavoidable costs will be incurred by the local authority team referred to because they will have to buy additional allowances – in effect a financial penalty.

The calculation was made on the basis of an estimated cost of £100 per tonne for extra allowances. At present local authorities have been given no idea of what allowances will cost.

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