Next year will see the election of a directly elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. The new Mayor will take over the functions of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority.  I hope that will mean greater transparency and accountability. At any rate, whoever takes charge could scarcely do a worse job.

The Sunday Times has reported(£) on the disastrous PFI deals, saying the “£3.8bn contract to process rubbish for millions of people in Greater Manchester, is under threat amid shrinking council budgets.”

It adds:

“Nine local authorities signed a 25-year private finance initiative (PFI) contract in 2009 with the infrastructure company John Laing and Viridor, the waste-treatment arm of water company Pennon. Under the deal, which was backed by cash from both the government and the EU, the companies handle more than 1m tons of rubbish a year, and several new facilities have been constructed. Laing, run by Olivier Brousse, and Pennon were guaranteed a long-term revenue stream…

“The Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority’s deal, which covers the handling of rubbish for about 2.4m people, was signed in the aftermath of the financial crisis. But in 2013 Eric Pickles, who was then the communities secretary, criticised it as a “shoddy deal done by a shadowy unelected body with no one taking responsibility and local taxpayers left with service cuts and higher taxation”.

“At the time, Pickles said taxpayers were being forced to pay “double the market rate to dispose of their residual waste — a deal which, despite funding to maintain weekly collections, has forced councils into a double whammy of both fortnightly bin collections for some . . . residents and higher taxes”.

The then Labour Government were implicated – there was a £182m loan from the European Investment Bank and £120m from the Treasury. 

Hilary Benn, as Environment Secretary said when the contract was signed:

“I am pleased that Defra could support the delivery of this project.”

Andy Burnham is the Labour candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester – he was a Minister in the Labour Government at the time the contract was signed. Will either of them apologise? Will there be any word of contrition from Manchester City Council and the other local authorities? 

Councils complain a lot about “austerity” but paying twice the going rate for rubbish collection is not a feature of austerity but of crazed extravagance.