Wakefield and Kirklees: Councils urged to re-think on bin collections

Two Yorkshire councils seemed set for a battle of the bins with the Government last night as pressure mounted for a change of heart over fortnightly collections.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is reported to have ordered new guidance for local authorities, urging them to ditch the policy introduced under the previous Labour government.

Broadly unpopular, the strategy has been blamed for a sudden explosion in the rat population, with rubbish left to rot in the streets in some parts of the UK - particularly those which were also hard hit by the winter weather.

Some homeowners have taken to trampling down the rubbish by climbing inside their bins, while others have claimed that because so much builds up in a fortnight, there can be as many as 20 bags awaiting collection before the refuse teams arrive.

Nevertheless, the councils which administer Kirkless and Wakefield were both reluctant to consider a U-turn yesterday, both indicating they were likely to defy Westminster and continue with collections every two weeks.

Mr Pickles - a former leader of Bradford Council and Tory party chairman - has dubbed the two-week policy "barmy" and is reported to have instructed Whitehall civil servants to instruct the Audit Commission to withdraw guidance which suggested fortnightly collections as a cost-cutting measure.

However, the issue is complicated by the Government's own drive to slash public spending, as well as a clash with the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which has its own waste and recycling targets to meet.

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said that since fortnightly collections began, the amount of rubbish collected door-to-door had fallen by a quarter, while recycling had increased by 50 per cent.

He said: "It is unlikely this would have happened without the change to alternate week collections – and the greater the amount of waste going to landfill, the higher the cost to council tax payers.

"The current system, which was introduced in 2008, works well for the vast majority of householders and encourages people to minimise waste and recycle more.

"To reinstate weekly collections would cost us around 6m over the course of our medium-term financial plan.

"The council offers additional green bins for recycling to any householder and additional grey bins to larger households if needed, while a glass collection service was introduced at the same time as alternate week collections."

A spokeswoman for Wakefield Council also confirmed the authority was unlikely to reconsider. She said: "We don't intend to go back to weekly collections as our current system is working well."