(2) what research the Audit Commission has conducted into the merits of (a) joint waste authorities and (b) alternate weekly collections of household rubbish;
(3) what research (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) the Waste and Resources Action Programme has conducted into joint waste authorities.
I have been asked to reply.
No research has been commissioned or evaluated by my Department, or its agencies, specifically relating to joint waste authorities (JWA). I am not aware of any similar research undertaken by the Audit Commission on JWAs or on alternate weekly collection.
However, AEA Technology has carried out work on DEFRA’s behalf to examine potential economies of scale in waste management and barriers to achieving them. This highlighted the importance of authorities sharing waste disposal facilities if we are to meet our environmental objectives. The final report, “Economies of scale: waste management optimisation study”, is available from DEFRA’s website. This gives examples of a number of joint working models that could be used by local authorities, including JWAs.
In addition, a report on ‘Joint working on wastes management’, published by the Innovation Forum, highlights the benefits of joint working in two tier areas, citing possible efficiency savings of around £150 million nationally. The report identified the limited legal basis for joint working as one of the key barriers to joint working on waste. In response to this report, the Government have introduced clauses in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill to allow the establishment of JWAs to enable local authorities to put their waste partnerships on a statutory basis if they wish to do so.
The Audit Commission has published a number of guidance documents containing advice to local councils on how they can meet their statutory requirements with regards to waste by improving their waste management and adopting best practice. The Audit Commission also examines the performance of councils and the services they provide, including waste, through the Comprehensive Performance Assessment, and provides recommendations for improvement.
I have been asked to reply.
The Government are not proposing to provide specific incentives to local authorities to create joint waste authorities (JWAs).
The new powers and freedoms, announced earlier this year as part of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, were requested by local authorities and will allow authorities that wish to put joint working on a statutory footing to create stronger partnerships in delivering their waste services.
Joint working between local authorities is becoming increasingly important as a means of delivering quality services to residents and meeting the UK’s environmental objectives. Joint working is particularly important in two-tier areas, where responsibilities for waste collection and waste disposal are split between different authorities. Partnership working and integrating collection and disposal services also have the potential to generate efficiency savings.
We will consider whether there is a case for making some funding available to help local authorities to set up the first JWA.