Weekly bin collection scheme offers councils £250m

Bin men collecting rubbish in Rainham, Essex Mr Pickles believes the public want a simple, weekly service

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A £250m government scheme encouraging councils to keep or bring back weekly bin collections is opening for bids.

Local authorities can apply for funds to support weekly collections, as well as for initiatives offering residents reward vouchers for recycling rubbish.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who announced the scheme last autumn, calls weekly bin collections a "basic right".

But Labour's Hilary Benn says the funding would be better spent on children's centres and elderly care.

Mr Pickles scrapped guidance telling councils to introduce fortnightly collections in a bid to reverse a trend developed under Labour.

He will say later that rubbish collections are the "most visible service" paid for through council tax.

"Labour's barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik's cube," he will say.

No compulsion

"The public are fed up of all the bin dos and bin don'ts. They just want a simple service."

Start Quote

The quarter of a billion pounds Eric Pickles has found for this could be much better spent on preventing SureStart centres from closing”

End Quote Hilary Benn Shadow communities secretary

The government scheme will make funding available for facilities with technology that sorts waste after it has been picked up, preventing families having to sort rubbish into as many as nine containers.

More than half the councils in England collect refuse once a fortnight, although many pick up recycling or food waste on a weekly basis.

However, BBC local government correspondent Mike Sergeant said there was no compulsion to bid for a share of the cash.

"Having invested heavily in alternate weekly systems, some may be rather reluctant to go back," he said.

Mr Benn, the shadow communities secretary, said local people were best-placed to decide how rubbish was collected and should not be dictated to by government.

"At a time of deep cuts, when local councils are having to make very difficult decisions, the quarter of a billion pounds Eric Pickles has found for this could be much better spent on preventing SureStart centres from closing or providing extra care for our elderly people," he added.

A survey by the Press Association news agency last year found many councils were sticking with fortnightly black bin collections, claiming that a return to weekly rounds would cost millions and undermine recycling efforts.

Points schemes

However, the Department for Communities and Local Government says 67% of people surveyed agreed the government should mandate weekly collections.

Ministers say more than 70 councils have signalled interest in applying for funding.

Bids which support a comprehensive weekly collection of rubbish, combined with a weekly recycling collection of materials such as glass, paper and plastics, will be prioritised.

The scheme will support initiatives which reward households for recycling, with points that convert into money off at retailers, such as Windsor and Maidenhead's RecycleBank and Birmingham's Nectar programmes.

And it will back mechanical biological treatment plants, already used in Bournemouth, which take all rubbish in just one bin and sort out the materials for recycling, landfill and composting.

Councils have until mid-March to bid for funding, which will be available from April.

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