The Kent Waste Partnership, which represents 12 local authorities in the county, is hoping that restoring or maintaining weekly food waste collections will be sufficient to qualify for funding from the Government's £250 million pot to promote weekly waste collections. Nine of the councils already have weekly collections for food waste – Canterbury, Swale and Thanet are planning to restore weekly collections for food waste from 2013.
I would like to see all rubbish collected weekly. Most people agree that should be the absolute maximum. On the other hand I can see that providing a weekly food waste collection is better than nothing. The rat population doubled under the last Labour Government as a result of pressure to reduce bin collections – from people like Hilary Benn. Official estimates show incidences of rats outside homes has increased 1.7% (percentage of occupied dwellings with rats outside homes) in 1996 to 3.04% in 2007.
But at least Kent Waste Partnership is looking at what deal is on offer. Some Tory council leaders have ruled out returning to weekly bin collections before even seeing the details of what funding they could get in return.
Of course this issue crosses Party lines to some extent. Hyndburn, a Labour council, is looking to restore weekly collections. In Lichfield the Labour opposition leader says the money is a "bung" – but that it should be investigated to see if reintroducing weekly collections would be possible.
Yet there have been several Conservative-run councils that have been dismissive of the idea. They have done so before even seeing the offer on the table. The council leaders or Cabinet Members who have rushed to denounce the idea in the media are unlikely to have taken the time to first consult their fellow councillors – let alone local residents. Examples include Carlisle, in Tewkesbury they have ruled out a return to weekly collection saying residents prefer to have their rubbish only collected fortnightly. Really? Perhaps they ought to have checked with them first.
That same report says that Lib Dem Cheltenham have "no intention" of returning to weekly collections but that Cotswold District Council will look with "interest" at the idea. Lib Dem Cambridge are also concerned at the increase at rats since weekly bin collectons were stopped.
In Croydon the Conservative council has "no intention" of restoring weekly collections. In Welwyn Hatfield the council says a weekly collection would be of "no benefit" to residents. What do the residents think?
It is right for the decision to be a local one. But it is also right that those taking it should be accountable. Council leaders should listen to their residents not just do what their bureaucrats want. The bureaucrats will find it more convenient to retain fortnightly collections due to inertia – some will also have an ideological affinity to fortnightly collection on the grounds that punishes residents who don't recycle.
By the way by popular demand I have inserted a video of a recent interview I did about dustbins for Channel 4.