LGIU | Housing and Homelessness – Where are we now?

LGIU Policy Briefing

November 24, 2016

Housing and Homelessness – Where are we now?

Author: Sheila Camp, LGiU associate

Summary

This briefing looks at the changes heralded for housing policy by the post-Cameron Conservative government. Is it, as Inside Housing proclaimed in the wake of the Tory party conference, “a new dawn” or merely a slight shift in government rhetoric? At present, details are scarce but a Housing White Paper is promised before 2017.

We also look at the broad conclusions of the Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into homelessness (PDF document) and ask whether the potential policy changes will start to address the main contributory factors to the rise in homelessness which the Committee identified. It also looks at the proposals in the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Members Bill introduced by one of the Committee members, Bob Blackman, and now backed by government.

This briefing will be of particular interest to members and officers with responsibility for housing, housing advice and support for vulnerable residents and of general interest to other elected members and officers.

Note This briefing was written just before the Autumn Statement – we will be publishing a detailed briefing shortly on the Autumn Statement which will include the housing measures in it.

Briefing in full

Following the referendum result and with few “big beasts” from the previous administration remaining in government, the stage was set for policy changes, most notably the abandonment of the previous Chancellor’s austerity programme, designed to produce a budget surplus by 2020.

Housing policy under the Cameron government was based largely on the belief that the current housing shortage could be resolved by prioritising home ownership and doing little to assist households who could not afford it – other than further welfare benefit restrictions. Social landlords, their development plans already constrained by the one per cent rent cut over the next four years, found that central government investment was to be restricted to home ownership schemes, with “starter homes” now dubbed affordable housing.

The Housing and Planning Act 2015 underpinned this policy drive, with right to buy extended to housing association tenants, a mandatory requirement for starter homes to be included in new build schemes, and various measures – for example “pay to stay” and fixed term tenancies – designed to make renting from councils less attractive, though Pay to stay has now been dropped by the government.

Against a background of housing shortage, rising private sector rents and increasing homelessness, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee begun an enquiry into homelessness in December 2015. Their report was published on 18 August 2016, shortly after the May government took office, and identified many of the underlying aspects of the housing crisis which were contributing to the rise in homelessness.

At the beginning of October, the Prime Minister in her Conference speech set out the broad issues on which her government’s housing policy would be based, signalling somewhat of a break with the previous emphasis on home ownership and prompting Inside Housing’s enthusiastic headline “a new dawn”. Whether that turns out to be the case is yet to be determined.

Potential Policy changes

In keeping with her pledge to govern for the whole country when she took over as Prime Minister, Theresa May’s main message in her conference speech was that housing policy should work for all. In perhaps a tacit admission that her predecessor’s policies to boost home ownership above all else, would not solve the housing crisis, she said “we simply need to build more homes”. So, what are the major policy changes heralded by May and fleshed out a little by the incoming ministerial team of Secretary of State Sajid Javid and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell?

Housing supply

With the Prime Minister indicating a more interventionist approach to housing supply than simply promoting home ownership initiatives, the government announced a new Home Building Fund of £3 billion (made up of unallocated funds from existing programmes) to be used both for infrastructure and to assist small builders; and a £2 billion Accelerated Construction programme to underwrite housing development – in the event of the market proving difficult, builders know properties can be purchased by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Increasing supply will focus on 100 local authority areas where demand greatly exceeds local supply; these areas have not yet been identified publicly, but may in fact be concentrated in the south east to the detriment of other parts of the country.

More flexibility over tenure

In keeping with Theresa May’s assertion that “we simply need to build more homes”, the new Housing Minister indicated that the Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes programme may be expanded to enable schemes for sub- market rental dwellings to be funded.

Redefining Starter Homes

At present, Starter Homes are defined in the Housing and Planning Act 2015 as properties for first-time buyers under 40 with a discount of at least 20 per cent. The new Housing Minister indicated that he would consider widening the definition to include other types of Starter Homes. No details are yet available.

Brownfield land

Details are also awaited on a promised package of measures to encourage urban regeneration and building on brownfield land.

Housing White Paper (November/December)

The Housing Minister has indicated that the Housing White Paper, promised before the end of 2016, will provide a “detailed strategy” on increasing the supply of new homes. Hopefully, it will also flesh out the other changes the government has heralded, including any necessary legislative changes, for example any redefinition of Starter Homes. It will provide an opportunity for everyone with an interest in solving the country’s housing crisis to assess whether the new regime is really on track to increase supply to the degree necessary

Homelessness inquiry CLG committee

The Committee’s main conclusions and recommendations to stem the rise in homelessness are set out below.

Factors contributing to the increase in homelessness

There is no one single cause of homelessness, although there are trends in factors which contribute to the loss of a home.

The private rented sector (PRS)

The ending of a fixed term Assured Shorthold Tenancy is an increasing reason for a household becoming homeless, up to 30% in 2015 from 13% 10 years’ earlier (DCLG figures). Rising rents mean households are often unable to find affordable alternative accommodation, given the level of Local Housing Allowance – the housing benefit payment based on the 30th percentile of market rents in the area, which frequently does not cover the actual asking rent.

In addition, there is evidence that landlords are less willing to let to people on housing benefit and even more wary about letting to homeless households.

The Committee concluded that the government should look at ways of giving greater confidence to both landlords and tenants to let to homeless people, including reviewing LHA levels and promoting longer ASTs.

Availability of social housing

The Committee concluded that problems in the PRS were exacerbated by the shortage of social housing, which, despite the demonstrable demand, is no longer funded by government. Whilst accepting there is a demand for the home ownership initiatives, particularly starter homes, not everyone can afford them. The current government definition of “affordable housing” should be reviewed so that it includes social rented housing.

Changes to the welfare system

The Committee identified several changes which have contributed – or have the potential to contribute – the increase in homelessness. These are

  • the freezing of working age benefits for 4 years
  • the reduction in the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000 (£23,000 in London)
  • excluding 18-21 year olds from claiming housing support (from April 2017)
  • extension of the Shared Accommodation rate of housing benefit to single people under 35
  • the payment of housing benefit direct to the tenant

The Committee concluded that, taken as a whole, the welfare reforms of recent years have increased pressure on levels of homelessness.

The role of local authorities

Gatekeeping and support

Local authorities have a duty to secure accommodation for homeless households in priority need. For other homeless people, they only have a duty to provide advice and support which, the Committee found, varied considerably throughout the country.

Whilst recognising the pressures on local authorities, the Committee concluded that the Government should monitor local authorities in order to promote best practice, to identify authorities which are not meeting their statutory duties and implement a code of practice to which local authorities should adhere. The Homelessness Reduction Bill, which now has government support, should go some way to ensuring a more uniform level of advice and support throughout the country.

Councils placing households outside of their administrative boundaries

Whilst recognising the reasons for some councils placing households away from their home authority, the Committee considered this should only be done as a last resort; the families should be supported in their new areas; and the receiving authority should be fully informed

The need for accurate statistics on Homelessness

Accurate statistics on homelessness are vital if the issue is to be addressed.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) publishes three sets of data on homelessness – statutory homelessness; prevention and relief; and rough sleeping. Statutory homelessness includes those households who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need. Prevention includes action by the local authority to prevent households becoming homeless; relief is where the household, on becoming homeless, has been helped to secure accommodation by the local council. The rough sleeping statistics are based on a snapshot of of the numbers sleeping rough on a particular night, ascertained either by a headcount or, more usually, an estimate by the local council.

The UK Statistics Authority assessed the DCLG data last December and concluded that only the statistics on statutory homelessness could be considered as national statistics; the two others were potentially misleading.

The Committee considered urgent action was needed to improve DCLG’s data collection so it more accurately reflected the actual scale of homelessness, including “hidden” homeless households. They resolved to monitor progress and review in 12 months.

Other issues identified by the Committee

The service user’s perspective

The Committee took considerable evidence on the perspective of the recipients of the homelessness service. They found that the main issues were:

  • Being treated with respect and compassion

At a time when they are extremely vulnerable, homeless households should be treated sensitively and not made to feel they are part of the problem.

  • Choice and autonomy

Households reported that they felt when using the homelessness service  that they had lost all measure of choice and autonomy

  • Quality of service

The Committee considered that the Government should review and reinforce the statutory Code of Practice to ensure it outlines clearly the levels of service that local authorities must provide and encourages regular training of staff to     ensure a sympathetic and sensitive service. Services should put users first with a compassionate approach that gives individuals an element of choice and autonomy.

Vulnerable groups and multiple complex needs

The Committee concluded that the homelessness services often dealt poorly with many vulnerable groups, particularly those who had more than one vulnerability. Such people frequently found their needs dealt with in isolation, even to the extent of being given conflicting appointment time. There was often a tendency for each group of professionals to deal with their specific area of expertise, rather than deal with whole person.

The Committee recommended focus on the individual and more cross-speciality working to ensure all vulnerabilities were addressed

Cross-Government working

A similar problem was identified in central government, where a lack of communication between departments or conflicting policies could work against the individual. A common approach to homelessness was needed.

Homelessness legislation

The Committee compared the approach to homelessness in England, where households not in priority need receive very little assistance in practice with the more recent legislation in Scotland and Wales.

The legislative approach in Scotland and Wales

In Scotland, priority need was abolished as from 31 December 2012, leaving Scottish local authorities with a duty to secure accommodation for all homeless households. As the legislation was passed in2003, councils had a 10 year lead in time to prepare.

In Wales, the 2014 Act placed a duty on local authorities to prevent households threatened with homelessness within 56 days (up from 28 days) from actually becoming homeless. For those households who are homeless when they seek assistance, councils must help secure accommodation for 56 days, but only have a continuing responsibility for households in priority need.

The Committee considered the Scottish approach was not appropriate for England because of the different housing markets. Having found support provided to homeless households not in priority need was at best variable in England, they welcomed the Welsh emphasis on prevention and linked this to their support for the Homelessness Reduction Bill.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, now proceeding as a Private Member’s Bill but with government support, is designed to ensure that all households who are either homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days receive genuine help and advice from their local council. This is regardless of whether they are in priority need. Originally, the Bill would have given councils a duty to secure accommodation for 56 days, (the Welsh approach) but this was withdrawn as impractical in the England context. The current wording will impose a duty on councils to assist all homeless and potentially homeless households; the government has indicated it will provide additional to councils to cover their costs.

Comment

Policy changes

The under-supply of new homes has been identified for some years as being the root cause of the country’s continuing housing crisis. It fuels increases in housing costs – both rents and purchase price – which, in turn, leads to housing becoming increasingly unaffordable, contributing to overcrowding and, in the worst case scenario, homelessness. Ever higher rents place a huge burden on the country’s social security budget, which government seeks to address by cuts to benefits, rather than measures to control rents.

The recognition by the May government that the necessary increases in supply will not happen by the market responding to measures to increase home ownership alone is welcome and the emphasis on a cross tenure approach to the supply issue must be the way ahead. The target of one million new homes by 2020 is commendable – but we have had targets before. Delivery is key and a thorough assessment of the government’s plans must wait for the “detailed strategy” promised in the forthcoming White Paper.

Nothing so far is proposed to stem the potential loss of existing social housing stock through extending RTB to housing association tenants, to be funded by the sale of “higher value” council homes. Nor does there seem to be any indication of reviewing benefit cuts, which exacerbate affordability issues.

Homelessness

Affordability and housing shortages runs through the Select Committee’s recommendations on homelessness. A major increase in supply will, in the medium to long term, help greatly with stemming the rise in homelessness and promoting that increase across all tenures is also vital.

However, given the lack of any intention to review benefit changes, which are impacting on low income households being able to afford their homes, it does not seem that there are any short term answers to increasing homelessness. The new duty for councils to take steps to prevent people becoming homeless will only have meaning if there is somewhere available that they can afford; in many high pressured areas, this is not the case.

Related briefings: 
Housing and Planning Act 2016

Neighbourhood Planning update: Autumn 2016

Inside Housing | Pay to Stay meetings cancelled as policies face delays

inside-housing-logo

 

11 November 2016

Pay to Stay meetings cancelled as policies face delays

 

Meetings of the Government’s Pay to Stay working group have been cancelled as several key measures in the Housing and Planning Act look set to be delayed.

Inside Housing can exclusively reveal that the Government has cancelled scheduled meetings despite the policy- under which higher earning tenants pay up to market rent- originally being planned for implementation in April next year.

It is not clear why the meetings have been cancelled, but sector figures this week said it suggested a delay. Councils have been urging ministers to put the start date back to give them time to prepare.

The news emerged days after a senior civil servant admitted the Right to Buy (RTB) extension to housing association tenants is set to be delayed as a result of the Brexit vote.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell also said this week that councils “need plenty of time” before implementing the higher value asset levy intended to fund the RTB extension, in response to a question about whether councils would still have to pay the levy in 2017/18 as expected. The government said regulations to implement Pay to Stay and the levy, along with RTB guidance, will be published in ‘due course’.

The Pay to Stay policy requires council tenants to pay up to market rent if they earn over £31,000, or £40,000 in London.

The Government has already taken several steps that water down the effects of the policy. Inside Housing reported last month DCLG was considering exempting council tenants in areas where social rents and market rents are similar and councils will be able to decide how to define market rent locally.

The Higher Value Asset Levy councils would be forced to pay also faces delay. Housing bodies had expected the Levy to be introduced from April next year. However, housing minister Gavin Barwell told the Communities and Local Government committee this week that no implementation date had been decided. He added he is “very aware” the legislation was “quite controversial” and the government will need to give councils “plenty of time” to implement the policy.

The Levy regulations were due to be published before the parliamentary summer recess in July but still have not materialised four months later. Experts said it would now be difficult for the policy to be introduced from next April. Clive Betts, chair of the CLG committee, said most councils are setting their budgets for next year and “haven’t got any idea what figure is going to be placed on them to estimate the high value assets”.

John Bibby, chief executive of the Association of Retained Council Housing, said if the voluntary RTB is delayed- as a civil servant this week said it would be – the higher value asset levy for councils should also be put back. He said ARCH would lobby “very strongly” for the levy to be delayed. He added: “If [the voluntary RTB] is not going to go ahead then there’s no reason to levy the councils.”

John Healey, shadow housing secretary said: “Ministers should recognise that on the Housing and Planning Act they may have won the legislation but they lost the argument. No-one thinks that forcing councils to sell off the best of their homes is an answer to the country’s affordable housing deficit. It can only make the problem worse.”

A DCLG spokesperson said nothing had changed with the higher value asset levy policy. He added: “We are currently considering how best to implement the policy to ensure it is robust and fair to councils. We will make an announcement in due course.”

The Times | Planning chaos leaves Tory pledge to build more homes in tatters

The Times logo

15 August 2016

Planning chaos leaves Tory pledge to build more homes in tatters

Homeowners and developers are experiencing “severe” delays in decision making as the government struggles to meet its pledge to get Britain building [Peter Byrne/PA]
Homeowners and developers are experiencing “severe” delays in decision making as the government struggles to meet its pledge to “get Britain building”.

Almost a quarter of a million applications have not been processed on time since 2010, with planning departments reducing staff numbers, freedom of information requests show.

Despite repeated government pledges to liberalise planning laws, the proportion of major applications approved has fallen between 2010 and 2015.

Fewer than 120,000 new homes were built last year, well short of the 250,000 that most experts say are needed to tackle the housing crisis. Developers say that delays are curtailing their ability to meet the demand for homes.

Gavin Sherman, from Linea Homes, which specialises in regenerating derelict sites, said that his business was suffering delays even when applications were sent with the correct paperwork and were “policy compliant”.

“Local authorities are so under resourced that they simply can’t acknowledge and administer the number of applications they are receiving,” he said. “Some officers only work two days a week which makes it impossible for them to deal with the workload they are given. We are not the only developer experiencing severe delays.”

Freedom of information requests to every council in Britain found that a third of major applications, which include large housing and commercial developments, have suffered delays over the past five years, with some councils only managing to process one in three applications within the statutory three-month time limit.

Homeowners and smaller developers have also suffered delays, with more than a quarter of minor applications, which include developments of fewer than ten homes and extensions, waiting longer than two months.

Not a single council has processed every application on time, while one in 16 is failing to process half on time.

Delays to minor applications were up 16 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Over the same period councils have shed 10 per cent of their planning workforce, equivalent to 1,200 jobs. Brighton and Hove city council, which has cut its planning staff by a third, is now processing less than a third of minor applications on time compared with three quarters five years ago.

However, the link between the number of staff and the speed of applications is not straightforward. Wigan borough council, for example, has lost 48 planning staff since 2010 but has managed to improve the proportion of major applications processed on time from 55 per cent to 83 per cent.

Many councils appear to have shifted resources from minor to major applications, forcing smaller developers and homeowners to wait longer so as to speed up big commercial projects.

Rico Wojtulewicz, from the National Federation of Builders, which represents local builders, said: “Councils overlook smaller builders. They don’t push through applications of less than ten houses even though these are the developments that can been done quickly to increase the number of homes. Larger projects can take years to deliver. Local builders used to make two thirds of homes — now we only build a quarter, and delays don’t help.”

The Local Government Association denied that planning delays were the main barrier to building new homes.

A spokesman said: “Hundreds of thousands of homes given planning permission are yet to be built.

“However, we want to do more and developers and councils have repeatedly called on government to resolve the underfunding of planning. Government limited the planning fees councils can charge, which impacts on services and means council tax payers have had to subsidise planning applications by £450 million over the last three years.

“Developers are increasingly willing to pay more, and fees need to be set locally so that they cover costs”.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said that more than a quarter of a million new homes received planning permission last year.

A spokesman added: “We are getting Britain building again, with almost 900,000 homes delivered since the end of 2009. Now our plans to allow councils to introduce competition into the planning system will help speed up the process and bring a renewed focus to our efforts to build more homes. But the new local government secretary accepts we need to do more. That’s why housing will be a priority.”

Homeowners and developers face a planning lottery with some councils twice as likely to approve an application as others in 2015.

Many local authorities have also got tougher over the past five years despite pledges to make planning easier.

There is a north-south divide, with some in the south refusing more than half of applications while others in the north approve every major project.

Waverley borough council in Surrey approved the lowest proportion of major applications last year at 41 per cent, down from 80 per cent in 2010. Carlisle council approved every major application.

Councils near each other also have different approaches. Worcester council approved every major development last year but Stroud turned down a third.

There are also huge variations in the likelihood of extensions being approved.

In Amber Valley 97 per cent were given the green light but in Maldon only 59 per cent succeeded.

Labour Press | “Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures”

Labour Press logo

13 March 2016

Labour warn Osborne must use the Budget to turn round spiralling homelessness figures

Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday Labour has released new figures showing that on current trends the number of homeless families is set to reach almost 400,000 by 2020.

Headline ‘statutory homelessness’ statistics only capture those people who fall into a small number of so-called ‘priority need’ groups containing the most vulnerable applicants like pregnant women and young people leaving care. Along with charities and academics, Labour has argued that a much better measure also includes ‘prevention and relief’ cases where councils step in to stop families becoming homeless.

This more comprehensive measure reveals that homelessness rose to 275,000 families last year, up 75,000 from 2010, and is set to hit 369,000 by 2020 on current trends.

This is in addition to rough sleeping figures which records people sleeping on the streets and has doubled in the last five years.

This rise can be traced directly to decisions taken by George Osborne in previous Budgets which have led to big cuts in housing support over the last five years, including:

·         cuts to housing benefit support worth over £5bn since 2010 – 13 separate cuts to housing benefit over the last five years, including the bedroom tax and breaking the link between private rented sector housing benefit and private rents;

·         cuts to ‘supporting people’ funding for homelessness services – the National Audit Office have revealed that vital funding for homelessness services fell by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2015;

·         soaring private rents – averaging over £1600 extra each year than in 2010; and

·         the loss of affordable homes – with over 100,000 fewer council homes than in 2010.

Without a change of direction from George Osborne, cuts in this Parliament are set to hit housing services and support on an even bigger scale:

·         the further impact of cuts to housing benefit is set to total almost £11bn between 2015 and 2020, plus a new cap on housing benefit announced in the Autumn Statement which homelessness organisations say will lead to the mass closure of their services;

·         further cuts to local authority support meaning homelessness services unable to cope – the IFS calculate further real terms cuts of around 7 per cent to council budgets over the next five years;

·         private rent rises are set to continue with Savills predict an inflation-busting 16.5 per cent increase in average rents over the next five years; and

·         A further loss of 300,000 social rented homes predicted over the next five years.

Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey MP said:

“Rising homeless figures carry the starkest warning for the Chancellor ahead of the Budget.

“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. It is a test of our basic humanity. It should shake the Chancellor from his complacency about the growing homeless crisis and shock him into action.

“The homeless figures hide personal stories of hurt and hopelessness; thousands of people whose ordinary lives have fallen apart from illness, debt, family break-up, addiction or redundancy.

“His failure to control housing costs and crude cuts to housing support over the last five years are making the problem much worse. The Government have no long-term housing plan for the country.

“George Osborne must use the Budget this week to stop the upward spiral of homelessness which is being driven by the government’s own housing policy failures.

“He must now re-think the multi-billion pound cuts to housing and homelessness support which are set to bite during this Parliament, as well as strengthening the law to help prevent homelessness happening in the first place as Labour has done in Wales.”

ENDS

Notes

·         The wider measure of homelessness used here – including homelessness ‘prevention and relief’ cases as well as ‘statutory homeless’ acceptances – was developed and is used by leading housing academics in the annual ‘Homelessness Monitor’ commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation :http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness_Monitor_England_2016_FINAL_(V12).pdf.

·         Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the average annual increase in this wider measure of homelessness was 6%. If the rate of increase in the last five years continued over the next five years this would mean 369,124 homelessness cases by 2019/20.

Source: DCLG statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief statistics: 2009/10 – 2014/15. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

·         In addition, the latest rough sleeping figures collected in Autumn 2015 show that the number of people sleeping on England’s streets has doubled since 2010 with 3,659 people recorded sleeping rough on one night: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2015.

·         Figures on housing benefit cuts for the last Parliament, and planned over the next were supplied by the House of Commons Library.

·         The National Audit Office have revealed that cuts to supporting people funding for homelessness services averaged 455.3% between 2010/11 and 2014/15:https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Impact-of-funding-reductions-on-local-authorities.pdf.

·         Average private market rents were £1,608 a year more expensive in January 2016 than at the same point in 2010, according the LSL rental index:http://www.lslps.co.uk/documents/buy_to_let_index_feb16.pdf.

·         There were 117,000 fewer council homes in England in 2014 than in 2010:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/423176/LT_104.xls

·         IFS figures suggest cuts to local authority budgets of around 7% over the next five years:http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8095.

·         Savills have predicted UK-wide increase in rents of 16.5% over the next five years:http://www.savills.co.uk/research/uk/residential-research/forecast-pages/mainstream-rental-values.aspx

·         The Chartered Institute of Housing have said that as many as 300,000 homes for social rent could be lost over the next five years: http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/housing-boss-says-england-could-lose-300000-socially-rented-homes-by-2020-11364045175253

·         More information on the measure the Welsh Government have taken on homelessness are available here: http://gov.wales/topics/housing-and-regeneration/legislation/housing-act/specific-elements/homelessness/?lang=en.

 

#Exeter Board | Domestic food waste collection in Exeter

At a meeting of the Exeter Board – a Joint Committee of Devon County and Exeter City Councils – held on 27 September 2012, the minutes  note that Audaye Elesedy [of Exeter Green Party ]attended and spoke to the Board under the Open Forum arrangements and asked questions about household food waste collection, recycling and recovery in Exeter, and the reasons why it did not take place at present and possibilities for the future. He also referred to grant funding available from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Members noted the excellent recycling rates generally in Devon and the particular problems for food waste collection in an urban environment and the desirability for more education to encourage minimisation of food waste as part of Devon s County Council s waste campaigning.

It was MOVED by Councillor Leadbetter, SECONDED by Councillor Sutton and

RESOLVED that that the City Council and County Council prepare a note answering Mr Elesedy points which would also be circulated to the Board members.

I’ve now seen a copy of the relevant note, dated 31 October 2012

You may recall that during the Open Forum at the 27 September meeting, the joint Exeter Board was asked a question by Audaye Elesedy about household food waste collection, recycling and recovery in Exeter, the reasons why it did not take place at present, and possibilities for the future.

Members agreed that ECC and DCC prepare a short note which answered the questions.

Accordingly below is the statement in response to the questions raised:

In the Review of the Waste Management Strategy for Devon, the local authorities have acknowledged that the most effective way to recycle domestic food waste is to collect it as a separate material on a weekly basis and send it for anaerobic digestion. it will be an important factor in reaching Municipal Waste Management Strategy recycling targets of 60% by 2014/15, and 65% by 2015/26.

However, at this point in time only East and West Devon District Councils collect food waste separately weekly. Other councils collect it fortnightly mixed with garden and/or cardboard for processing at Devon’s In-Vessel Composting plants.

Anaerobic digestion of food waste is a cost-effective means of dealing with organic waste in terms of processing, but unfortunately changing a collection service to meet this aim can be expensive.

Exeter City Council has estimated the cost of setting up such a scheme in Exeter at £1.1m in capital investment, and a further £600,000 per year in revenue costs [even after reduced waste disposal costs have been taken into account].

When the government’s Department for Communities & Local Government announced its challenge for weekly waste collection earlier this year, Exeter City Council and several other Devon local authorities submitted an expression of interest in the fund. However, the funding would only last for 3 years, after which the additional costs would have to be met by local authorities. Therefore, Exeter City Council decided to withdraw from the bid.

Some councils have added food waste to their existing fortnightly collection schemes. Although this is cheaper than a weekly food waste collection, experience has shown that it is less effective at diverting food waste way from landfill refuse collections. Therefore, Exeter has chosen to concentrate instead on maximising participation in the current kerbside recycling and garden waste collection services. In particular, Exeter recycles a more comprehensive range of plastics than most other councils.