The impact of budget cuts and austerity measures on local authority waste services will form the basis of a study announced by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and consultancy Ricardo-AEA.
A reduction in local authority funding since the recession has forced councils across the UK to make budget savings, while the likes of Defra, the Environment Agency and the Waste & Resources Action Programme have also faced budget cuts.
As such, the joint research project announced today will look at the range of efficiency saving and improvement measures being introduced by local authorities for the likes of collection scheme design, household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), bring-bank provision and partnership working.
CIWM and Ricardo-AEA hope the study will identify successful initiatives that have delivered cost savings and service improvements, while also exploring the possible effect of further budget cuts on council services and the wider impact of this on communities.
Due to be published towards the end of 2014, the study will comprise a “large-scale” survey and “in-depth qualitative research” based on targeted interviews and views of key organisations in the waste management sector.
“Cuts in funding continue to impact upon local government and this study will investigate how local authorities across the UK and Ireland are responding, both now and in the future.,” said CIWM’s technical manager, Tracy Moffatt.
Measure such as a freeze on landfill tax and a reform of the PRN system to give councils a better share of the recycling value are among those proposed by the Local Government Association (LGA) to ease the pressure on council budgets.
Dr Adam Read, Ricardo-AEA practice director, said: “It is a pleasure to be working with CIWM as strategic partners on this important and topical issue. So many of our clients have suffered at the hands of budget cutbacks, and have been taking difficult decisions on services, priorities and future procurement routes.
“We have helped many of them to model the options and to take robust decisions, based on available data wherever possible but we believe it is time to take stock and learn the lessons so any future decision-making is based on real evidence and peer experience.
The announcement of the study follows the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA)’s warning last year that plans to cut local authority funding in Wales by £175million from 2014/15 could put pressure on waste and recycling services.
In England, meanwhile, several local authorities have looked at charging residents to use household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) to cover costs, such as Norfolk county council, which received criticism from the government over its plans for a £2 charge at nine of its 20 HWRCs.