Councils ‘could save £460m on waste collections’

26 Mar 14
More than £460m could be saved across local government if councils improved the efficiency of their refuse services, the Audit Commission has said

By Richard Johnstone | 27 March 2014

More than £460m could be saved across local government if councils improved the efficiency of their refuse services, the Audit Commission has said.

Bin man

In its latest value for money examination of the sector, the spending watchdog said costs could be cut if all authorities were able to match those most effective at operating waste collection and disposal.

According to the commission, councils spent £3.9bn on household waste collection in 2012/13, including landfill tax payments. The total covered two-tier areas where district councils have responsibility for waste collection and counties deal with disposal, as well as the unitaries, metropolitan districts and London boroughs that are combined collection and disposal authorities. It also included those metropolitan authorities and London councils that only have responsibility for collection, with disposal being undertaken by statutory waste authorities.

Across these different roles, the commission found large spending differences. If authorities were able to cut the cost per household to the average in their area of responsibility, £464m could be saved, the Local authority waste management report stated.

Audit Commission chair Jeremy Newman highlighted that town halls had reduced their spending on household waste services by £46m over the past four years while also reducing the levels sent to landfill. 

‘Councils have achieved these important improvements by working with local people and exercising choice about what works best in their own circumstances,’ he said. 

However, wide variations in spending remain. Most authorities that both collect and dispose of waste spent between £125 and £175 per household in 2012/13, but more than a quarter spent more than £175, while 13% had costs in excess of £200.

For those authorities that only collect waste, the majority (64%) spent less than £75 per home, but 11% spent over £100. Of the authorities that only dispose of waste, a majority – 69% – spent between £75 and £125 for each dwelling, but a fifth spent more.

Responding to the report, local government minister Brandon Lewis said council taxpayers deserved comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling service. 

The report exposed as a myth the claim by some councils that there is a need to move from weekly bin collections to fortnightly to save money, he said. In January, the government recently published guidance urging town halls to maintain weekly collections.

‘There is clear evidence that councils can make sizeable savings, such as through better procurement and renegotiating contracts, without affecting the quality and breadth of services,’ Lewis said today.


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