EU Waste Implementation Agency to usurp councils

It’s interesting that only in the last week the media has actually taken notice of EU plans to create a waste implementation agency.

The plan was included in a release following the consideration of two reports by the European Commission in November 2009.  As the EU’s press release on the matter explained:

The Commission is also studying the feasibility of creating an EU Waste Implementation Agency to help address the problem of inadequate implementation and enforcement deficit.

It seems that, unless the UK government intends to oppose the implementation of this proposed agency, it’s not just the media that failed to take on board the EU’s plans.  Because in Parliament last Thursday, Labour’s Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dan Norris, fielded a question from Norman Baker MP about landfill and one about recycling from Adrian Sanders MP.  His answers to the follow up questions were interesting.

On the subject of landfill, Norris was asked if he would ‘take steps to discourage East Sussex County Council from creating landraise mountains in the countryside’.  Norris answered that the government will shortly be consulting on further restrictions on the landfilling of certain biodegradable and recyclable wastes.  The exchange continued:

Norman Baker: I welcome that statement, but in this day and age is it not unbelievable-and appalling-that my Conservative county council wants to build 60-acre wide and 80-foot high waste mountains in the lovely Sussex countryside? Will he draw the council’s attention to the Government’s waste hierarchy and suggest that it moves from the 15th century to the 21st?

Dan Norris: If I did not know better, I would think that a general election is imminent. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take part in our consultation to ensure that we produce as little waste as possible that needs to go into landfill. The truth is that we need to reduce, recycle and reuse at every possible opportunity, and allowing waste to go into landfill is not a good thing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I both went to Sussex university, so we are very familiar with the beauty of the area, and we recognise people’s anger, but it is a local planning issue, plus a safety issue for the Environment Agency.

My emphasis.  That seems an unequivocal statement of fact.  Enter Sanders on recycling, who wanted to know ‘what steps [Norris’] Department is taking to encourage local authorities to recycle a greater range of materials’.  After Norris gave the party line on the work done with local authorities, the money spent and the increase in recycling as a result, Sanders continued the discussion:

Mr. Sanders: What specific support can the Government give to my own local authority, which has a recycling rate of just 27 per cent., to enable it to bring that rate up to the level of 57 per cent. that is being achieved by the next-door authority, Teignbridge?

Dan Norris: This really is a matter for local authorities. The recycling rate in the hon. Gentleman’s unitary authority, Torbay, is actually higher than he suggested, but it is still about 10 per cent. behind the average for local authorities in the west country. He certainly needs to talk to the local authority and ensure that it is getting the message that it needs to get on with this. It recycles five different forms of waste, which is to be encouraged-we suggest a minimum of two, but we want local authorities to go up to five-but it is clearly not doing as well as the best, and I suggest that he takes that up with the authority, as this is a local matter.

Again, my emphasis.  The consistent theme in both responses from Dan Norris is that actions on landfill and recycling are seen as local matters.  Clearly the EU has designs on changing the status quo.  Norris surely knew this but decided to say nothing about the proposed removal of local control over these areas by our masters in Brussels.  Also there was no acknowledgement of the expensive accumulation of recyclable material for which there is no market and for which the costs are being passed on to council tax payers.

The question is this; when will our Westminster government acknowledge the planned changes of our actual government, and at what point will residents in local authority areas that are still control waste collection and disposal (i.e. not members of unaccountable waste partnerships) be asked to give a democratic mandate to the transfer of control over waste from their elected representatives to an EU agency?  Is this what they call joined up government?

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