Return to weekly refuse collections not welcome in Hunts

WEEKLY refuse collections are unlikely to return to Huntingdonshire even if the Government offers extra payment to councils.

According to Monday’s Daily Telegraph, Ministers are ready to announce financial incentives similar to those used to freeze Council Tax in April.

Under that arrangement Whitehall paid councils the equivalent of the extra tax take from a 2.5 per cent increase in their Council Tax precept – about half the current rate of inflation. Most councils felt obliged to accept what one cabinet member at Huntingdonshire District Council repeatedly referred to as “a bribe”.

But, with other Whitehall grants to councils being heavily slashed over the next four years, the idea of restoring weekly rubbish collections is not attractive to Pathfinder House, HDC’s Huntingdon headquarters.

The authority’s new leader, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, told The Hunts Post yesterday: “When fortnightly collections were first introduced, some people were upset and had a lot of concerns about health, hygiene and smells in the summer, but people quickly settled in to [the arrangement], and it works quite well.

“If the Government has a different philosophy, that would be a concern for us when we’re trying to find �3million of further savings.

“A lot of people, especially in flats, might welcome it, but I don’t think it would help with recycling. It could double the cost of collection.”

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Huntingdonshire has one of the best recycling records of any district in the country, with more than 60 per cent of household waste going for re-use.

But Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has a track record of ‘flying kites’ to gauge public reaction to populist ideas.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the fortnightly collection scheme “has backfired and led to an increase in rat and insect infestations, along with a rise in fly-tipping”.

That, says HDC’s operations chief Eric Kendall, is nonsense. Biodegradable kitchen waste is still collected weekly, either in grey bins destined for landfill or in green bins for composting.

Going back to weekly grey bin collections would add about �1m to a budget from which he has just cut �1.2m.

“Vehicles are expensive, so we would have to introduce double shifts,” he said. “But we don’t get a lot of complaints about these issues.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We will not comment on speculation on the final detail of the waste review. The review will be published shortly.

“The Government is working with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish collections. This includes making it easier to recycle and tackling measures which encourage councils to specifically cut the scope of collections.”