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We are a cross-party, member-led network, providing a single voice for our member councils

Reaction to PM’s speech: Top-down approach to waste must end

Published: 21 September 2023

The District Councils’ Network has responded to the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday which suggested that councils will – after all – retain a high degree of local discretion about how they collect waste.

Councils have been waiting for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to respond to a 2021 consultation on food waste consistency, which had indicated councils would be made to follow top-down rules on how waste is collected.

The policy vacuum that followed has left councils unable to take decisions on how to improve waste services because they did not know if their plans would be in accordance with the Government rules.

In response to yesterday’s announcement, Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said:

“District councils are passionate about improving waste collection, boosting recycling rates and enhancing the environment but we had huge concern that Defra’s previous plans to bring in a one-size-fits all system would thwart us from doing this.

“We would wholeheartedly welcome a decision to allow councils to retain local discretion about devising a system that works for their communities, whether they are densely-packed urban environments or sparsely-populated rural areas.

“A centralised, standardised approach would have been both ineffective and financially costly for the taxpayer. In some cases, councils would have been required to procure vast fleets of vehicles which would have travelled significant distances – at some environmental cost – in order to collect relatively small amounts of waste which would have to be sorted and collected in separate streams.

“Most of the top recycling councils in the country are district councils and when we are clear about the implications of the Prime Minister’s announcement our intention is to invest in making our services even better, both for our communities and for the local and global environment.

“We look forward to seeing the detail, in particular the financial support councils will be offered to ensure any centrally-driven changes are viable. We also urge the Government to work with to ensure reforms are implemented in a realistic timescale.”

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