Pickles reiterates stance on weekly bin collections

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has reiterated his stance on weekly bin collections and claimed that the previous Labour Government ignored the electorate by focusing on fortnightly collections.

Speaking at a debate on delivering waste services at the RWM show in Birmingham (17 September), Pickles said: “The last administration actively encouraged fortnightly collections and never sought a democratic mandate to justify it.”

He said this was “despite the fact that evidence shows that you can increase recycling rates” and provide collections “without cutting frequency”.

He said that the previous administration had “put its head in the sand” and had “forgotten” about public policy by focusing on fortnightly collections. He said fortnightly collections encouraged smells and fly-tipping.

Pickles cited a YouGov poll which “discovered that people think waste collection is the most important public service”.

He said rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their council tax bill, and that residents deserved a comprehensive weekly service in return for their taxes.

Pickles also blamed the previous administration for moving responsibility of bin collections from “local government to Defra” where the focus on “fortnightly collections started”.

He also said that councils can protect weekly collections at little or no extra cost. He cited local authorities such as Bournemouth Borough Council and Ribble Valley Borough Council in Lancashire. Both local authorities offer a weekly collection service. Pickles said that Bournemouth had one of the best recycling rates in England.

He also praised his weekly collection fund initiative and stated that the Government had “safeguarded weekly collections for six million households with its weekly collection support scheme”.

Pickles has long been a strong advocate for weekly bin collections and this has caused tension between him and some local authority stakeholders who back fortnightly, three-weekly or monthly collections.

In a tense environment, some audience members in the conference hall were angered by Pickles’ comments and many asked him why he thought central Government knew what was best for residents.

He responded and said that if councils were to conduct a survey of “what residents wanted” most would back weekly collections.

He said that councils should “not treat the public like naughty children” and “criminals to be put in their place”.

Elsewhere, Pickles also said the “elephant in the room” driving the fortnightly-collection agenda was “Brussels”. He added: “Waste policy is increasingly driven by poorly drafted EU targets and not a municipal agenda.”

He said that Brussels was meddling with vacuum cleaners. He added: “We will soon by forced to buy dustbins with holes in them in order to save plastic.”

Liz Gyekye

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