Could changes to recycling payments hit Rugby council's finances?

File photo.
File photo.

Warwickshire County Council paid Rugby Borough Council almost £500,000 in recycling credits from 2017-18, it was revealed after Jerry Roodhouse raised the issue at a council meeting.

Cllr Roodhouse asked whether the county council portfolio holder would confirm how much Rugby Borough Council gets in recycling credits from the authority.

Cllr David Reilly, the portfolio holder, said the overall value of the credits paid to Rugby Borough Council in 2017/18 was £473,781.

That figure is for all waste, with £360,000 being paid to the council for green bin waste.

When waste is diverted from a county council’s landfill site, as is the case with recycling, the county council will give some of the money saved to district and borough councils – meaning Rugby council is entitled to the £473,781.

During the meeting, Cllr Reilly clarified the point, stating that the council has a statutory duty to pay recycling credits, and these are paid to each of the collection authorities.

But the portfolio holder revealed that Warwickshire council is now in discussions with Rugby Borough Council, and four other district and borough councils, to look at ways of mitigating its costs and ensuring waste is managed in the most efficient and environmentally sound way.

A county council cannot reduce recycling credit payments without the agreement of borough or district councils. Attempts to stop payment without the agreement of district and borough councils have previously failed.

A financially ailing Northamptonshire County Council considered unilaterally halting the payment of recycling credits – a government inspector sent to deal with the council’s finances revealed.

What are recycling credits?

Recycling credits have been around in some form since 1990, but were altered in 2006. They are intended as an incentive system to encourage recycling services.

While borough and district councils are responsible for emptying household bins, it is the county council that is responsible for disposing of residual waste – ie putting it in landfill.

Recycling credits recognise that by recycling or reusing items, councils are saving the county council payments for landfill, and gives a mechanism for effectively sharing that windfall with the borough council.

The 2006 changes to the credit system allows county and borough councils to work together to come up with alternative systems or rates of payment, but the requirement for both sides to agree to any changes remains in place.