Contrary to briefings from Defra officials to the Daily Mail yesterday I understand there is no u-turn on bin collections. It is true that there are no plans to force councils to collect bins fortnightly rather than weekly – but there never were such plans. It would have been contrary to localism. So far as providing incentives for weekly bin collections (rather than penalties that existed under Labour) this is still the approach that is planned.
The difficulty is over the details of the policy and the obstructiveness of Defra officials with a deep ideological belief in pushing councils into having fortnightly bin collections. These Defra officials are anxious to resist "interference" from elected politicians prompted by the inconvenient matter of a change of Government last year.
So the presentation of a split between Caroline Spelman and Eric Pickles is also wrong. When Caroline was the Shadow Communities and Local Government spokesman she put strong emphasis on support for restoring weekly bin collections, including the message in the final rallying cry before Polling Day.
While Labour promoted a switch to fortnightly collections as "part of the battle against climate change", Caroline responded:
"Axing weekly collections will hit families the hardest, who quite naturally produce more waste than single person households, or couples without children.
"Like many others, they will be asking whether it's too much to ask that our streets are kept clean and our bins emptied."
On Gordon Brown's record she said:
Under his watch, council tax bills have doubled while frontline services like weekly bin collections have halved. You pay more and get less under Labour.
Contrary to the briefing from her officials I have no evidence that she has changed her views and I suspect she will be unamused by the antics of her officials.