Weekly Bin Collections For Everyone?

A £250 million scheme to encourage councils to keep or bring back weekly bin collections is being launched by the Government.

Local authorities will be able to apply for money to support weekly collections, as well as for schemes which reward residents with vouchers for recycling their rubbish.

Funding will also be available for facilities with technology that sorts waste after it has been picked up, so that families do not have to sort their rubbish into as many as nine bins and containers.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is launching the scheme, first announced before last autumn's Conservative Party conference, in a bid to reverse the move towards fortnightly rubbish collections.

More than half of councils in England now have systems in place in which refuse is collected only once a fortnight, although many pick up recycling or food waste once a week.

A survey by the Press Association last year found councils were sticking with fortnightly black bin collections, claiming that a return to weekly rounds would cost millions and undermine recycling efforts.

Mr Pickles has said he believes that weekly collections are a ''basic right'', and has already taken steps to encourage councils to bring them back - including scrapping Audit Commission guidance telling councils to introduce fortnightly collections.

Last month the Environment Department - which has responsibility for waste and recycling - announced details of plans to get rid of ''bin fines'' for householders who mistakenly put their rubbish out incorrectly.

The Communities Department said a recent survey found that two thirds (67%) of people questioned agreed that the Government should mandate weekly collections, which had higher satisfaction levels than fortnightly bin rounds.

Announcing details of the £250 million fund, Mr Pickles will say:

''Rubbish collections are the most visible service that people get for their £120 per month council tax.

''Labour's barmy bin rules have made putting out your rubbish more complicated than solving a Rubik's cube.

''The public are fed up of all the bin dos and bin don'ts they just want a simple service, which is why Government is making sure that councils can offer a good weekly collection and make it easier to go green.''

The Government claims more than 70 councils have signalled their interest in applying for funding under the programme, including Bournemouth, Windsor and Maidenhead and Sandwell.

The fund will prioritise bids which support a comprehensive weekly collection of rubbish, combined with a weekly recycling collection of materials such as glass, paper and plastics.

It will support schemes such as Windsor and Maidenhead's Recyclebank and Birmingham's Nectar points programmes which reward households for recycling.

And it will back mechanical biological treatment plants, already used in Bournemouth, which take all rubbish in just one bin and sort out the materials for recycling, landfill and composting.

Councils have until mid March to put in bids for funding, which will be available from April.

Hilary Benn, Labour's shadow communities secretary, said:

 ''Local people are best placed to decide how rubbish is collected - different local circumstances require different approaches.

''Sitting behind his desk in Whitehall, Eric Pickles should trust communities to do this rather than thinking that he knows better.

''And at a time of deep cuts, when local councils are having to make very difficult decisions, the quarter of a billion pounds Eric Pickles has found for this could be much better spent on preventing SureStart centres from closing or providing extra care for our elderly people.''