Minister attacks council over bin collection cash

Letter: Eric Pickles. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Letter: Eric Pickles. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has attacked Sheffield Council’s Labour administration for ‘intentionally ignoring’ his £250 million fund to help cover the cost of weekly bin collections.

The Tory cabinet minister has written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, criticising the controversial proposals to reduce the service to fortnightly, which Labour says will save £2.4 million per year.

However, it has emerged the move will only save a maximum of £1.6 million in its first year as it will not be implemented immediately.

It could also cost up to £1 million in fees to contractor Veolia for changeover costs such as redundancies and there will be a £400,000 bill for ‘communicating’ the change to residents - leaving a maximum saving of just £200,000 in the first year.

Mr Pickles said: “I believe it is a false economy to cut frontline services - councils can save money through new technology, embracing innovation, more joint working and better procurement. Indeed, many councils with fortnightly collections have higher collection costs than those with weekly collections.

“It is disappointing the ruling administration on the council has decided to make these cuts. It intentionally decided to ignore the Coalition’s new scheme to support weekly collections. This strikes me as a very partisan move.

“I urge the council to review its decision and consider applying for the scheme.”

Mr Clegg said: “The Coalition has made clear money is available to keep weekly collections and Labour has made no effort to even find out what help there could be.”

Mr Pickles’s fund makes £250 million available over three years and councils receiving help must commit to keeping weekly collections for five years. Funding will be allocated in autumn.

Lib Dems on Sheffield Council say the authority should make a bid to the fund and keep bins collections weekly while waiting for an answer.

However, Coun Bryan Lodge, Labour deputy council leader, said: “We don’t have the luxury of waiting until October to set our budget and both Mr Pickles and Mr Clegg know that.

“It’s time for a definitive answer.

“Sheffield needs to know - are we guaranteed the funding or not?”