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Weekly Refuse Collections

Volume 530: debated on Monday 20 June 2011

1. What steps his Department is taking to encourage local authorities to provide weekly refuse collections. (60273)

The public have a reasonable expectation that their household waste, in all its various forms, will be collected weekly. That is why we have already ditched the last Government’s policy of imposing fortnightly collections, and we are now going to work with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish collections. We want to make it easier to recycle.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that by stopping Labour’s planned bin taxes, we are saving hard-working pensioners and families a lot of money?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct about abolishing Labour’s plans for bin taxes, which would have hammered hard-working families. They were also ridiculous because they would have led to an increase in fly-tipping. The Keep Britain Tidy group has remarked that people would simply have dumped their garbage illegally in a bid to avoid the taxes. It seemed to me to be utterly unreasonable to pit neighbour against neighbour.

Wirral council’s ability to manage refuse collection is severely hampered by the financial settlement it has received. Will the Secretary of State or Ministers meet a Wirral delegation to discuss funding for local services, including refuse collections, in Wirral?

It is always a delight to meet people from Wirral, and if the council there—or, indeed, the hon. Lady—would like to meet me or some of my hon. Friends, we would mark it eagerly in our calendars.

What incentives and support—financial or otherwise—will the Secretary of State’s Department give to small councils such as Purbeck district council, which has moved to fortnightly waste collections but would be interested, if funds permitted, in moving to a weekly food collection?

My hon. Friend makes my point very well. As the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for local government and planning announced, we are considering financial assessments. Often the kind of authority to which my hon. Friend referred could do with some help with procurement—we have seen a number of smaller districts get together—and we would certainly hope to deal with weekly collections in all their various forms.

Order. If the Secretary of State could face the Chamber, we will all benefit from hearing the full flow of his eloquence.

This money has been recycled many times over. At the Conservative party conference in October 2008, the Secretary of State promised:

“Under a Conservative Government, the weekly bin collection will be back.”

Since the election, eight Tory councils, including in the Prime Minister’s own constituency, have abandoned weekly bin collections, and the Secretary of State has been forced into a humiliating U-turn. Why can he not deliver on his promises?

My hon. Friend suggests, from a sedentary position, that that was rubbish, and I cannot disagree with him. We are looking at delivering weekly collections and a financial incentive for providing them, but we had to start from the basis of dealing with the legacy—we had first to remove the Audit Commission and the instructions in the waste and resources action programme suggesting that it was best to close these things down after local elections, and we had to ensure that the fortnightly collections, which the right hon. Lady advocated so strongly when she was Minister for Housing, were also stopped.

Of course, under Labour, recycling went up, and last week we heard that across our islands, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have higher targets for recycling than England. I think that the record will show that most of the local authorities with fortnightly bin collections are Conservative-controlled. Is not the truth that this chaotic climbdown is a personal humiliation for the Secretary of State? He is making promises he cannot deliver, his own councils are not listening to him and he has been dumped on by his Cabinet colleagues.

I understand now why Polly Toynbee is so disappointed with the right hon. Lady’s opposition across the Dispatch Box. I apologise, Mr Speaker, for not directing my earlier remarks to you. She is concerned about the number of Conservative authorities, but their number is due to the fact that the majority of councils in this country are Conservative—she had a big chance in May to rectify that and failed singularly. However, we are removing the incentives for fortnightly collections, and looking at incentives for weekly collections.