Lee Cagey on Pickles Bin Boost

17:43 Friday 30th September 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: Let’s return to today’s top story, and it’s that £250 million incentive from the Government, to encourage local authorities to start picking up everyone’s general waste, black bin in many cases, every week, rather than every fortnight. We can speak to the Deputy Leader of Peterborough City Council Matthew Lee. Hello to you Matthew.
MATTHEW LEE: Hello Andy.
ANDY BURROWS: So you’re going to take Eric Pickles up on his offer. You’ll say yes please. And you’re going to reintroduce weekly general waste collections.
MATTHEW LEE: Well, first of all, we’re going to find out what actually they’ve announced today, because we’ve just got the headline, and we’re waiting for all of the detail that sits behind that. And then we will do as we have done for many years, continue to review it, and we’ll take into account the money, and look to see and make the decision in the best interests of the people in this city. But it’s £250 million, and we need to see what sort of share we would get of that. Because it would be expensive. The last Government bullied us into the current approach, in many respects. It’s also an approach that we’ve embraced in many ways, over the past years. But we’ve spent millions and millions of pounds getting to where we are. We …
ANDY HARPER: It would be a nonsense though, wouldn’t it? This would be an absolute backward step for authorities like yours. Eric Pickles is plainly wrong, isn’t he? Because it is encourage people to recycle more than ever before, so any switch back to weekly general waste collections would be a terribly retrograde step.
MATTHEW LEE: Well that’s where we have to look at the options, look at what the money is available. But we’ve also got to devise a way of doing this by keeping our recycling up. So this is something that we’ll look at very very carefully. But we were pushed very hard by the last Government. And we have spent millions of pounds getting to where we are today. If we’re going to start undoing some of that, we’ve got to understand what money is available from the Government to help us do that, and then make the interests .. in the best interests. But as I say, all we have is a headline today. We’ve got no details. And we’re waiting for them.
ANDY BURROWS: Would it really matter? Because Peterborough’s going to get this enormous great incinerator anyway.
MATTHEW LEE: We’re building an energy from waste plant. It will be a you know a plant in the city to take what what is our black bin waste here. And that’s because we need to stop putting it in landfill. Because we’ve run out of landfill space in the area. So we still aim to do that. It’s how we collect waste and keep our recycling high as well. Because there is a big market in recycling, as well as all the environmental benefits. But we have spent many millions of pounds developing the way in which we collect waste. And we’ve just got to make the decision carefully, and in an ..
ANDY BURROWS: There’s only one way to go though, isn’t there?
MATTHEW LEE: What way?
ANDY BURROWS: There’s only one way to go Matthew Lee, and that’s collecting people’s general waste every three weeks from now on. Really really force people to think about the kind of waste they’re throwing away.
MATTHEW LEE: Oh, we wouldn’t wish to go any further than bi-weekly, which is what we have now. There would be ..
MATTHEW LEE: Because leaving waste in a black bin for three weeks is unacceptable. Some people in the city don’t like leaving it for two weeks. And we understand that. But three weeks is not acceptable.
ANDY BURROWS: Is your black bin full after two weeks?
MATTHEW LEE: No it’s not. But ..
ANDY BURROWS: Well there you go.
MATTHEW LEE: The waste that is in there is ready for collection after two weeks. There would be no intention .. what we would like to do is look at what money is potentially available, and how we could deliver something like this. But you can’t ..
ANDY BURROWS: So you can’t rule it out. You can’t rule out the fact that you might go back to weekly general waste collections.
MATTHEW LEE: We never .. we we we we review this regularly. We never rule things in and out until we’ve taken a proper considered look. Because this will have big implications, one way or the other, for decades to come. And we need to be sure of our approach. You can’t just take one minister’s announcement today without any detail and expect us to give you an answer. But you know as we develop this .. more than happy to talk to everyone about it, as we develop this .. a new approach, if if indeed we decide that there’s money available to help us do that.
ANDY BURROWS: OK. Well thank you for your time. That was Council Matthew Lee. He’s the Deputy Leader of Peterborough City Council. So they can’t rule it out at this stage. They might go back to weekly bin collections. Cambridge City Council, earlier on, you heard them say absolutely no chance of them returning to weekly general waste collections. So it’s rather dividing local authorities.