Generally the civil service have been professional in accepting the change of Government that took place last year. But there does seem to be a bit of problem with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. The latest manifestation of this is that we have rogue officials from Defra that have been busy briefing the media that there has been a u-turn and the Government no longer supports a return to weekly bin collections.
The problem is not the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman. She was and remains an enthusiastic supporter of weekly bin collections as a basic Council service. The problem is not the policy itself. The Government Review of Waste Policy that was published today is pretty good stuff.
The Government will be working with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish collections and make it easier to recycle, and to tackle measures which encourage councils specifically to cut the scope of collections.
It also says:
The Government has already moved to remove Audit Commission guidance and inspections which marked down councils who do not adopt fortnightly rubbish collections; and to abolish Local Area Agreements imposed by Whitehall which created perverse incentives to downgrade waste collection services. The Government will also work with WRAP to monitor service levels to understand whether and how they are changing, keeping the quality, affordability and frequency of household waste collections under review.
The Breaking News is that contrary to reports there will be incentives (although not compulsion which was never proposed) for councils to restore weekly bin collections. This is not included in the waste review because the details have not yet been finalised. But the wishful thinking of the Defra officials that this means it won't happen is wrong. For the Defra officials recycling in the new religion. Those who don't recycle are heretics who must be punished with stockpiles of uncollected rubbish. But contrary to their spinning that is not Government policy.
There will be incentives to maintain and restore weekly bin collections. They will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government but Caroline Spelman just as much as Eric Pickles will be pleased that they will be brought forward. I predict that they will prove effective.