Well the Tories have done it, they’ve found some money to spend on public services, let “Call me Dave” be praised, and what worthy cause have they chosen to invest this unexpected windfall in.  Rubbish.  No that is not an indictment of their policy… let me rephrase that, no that is not merely an indictment of their policy, they have chosen to sink this money, the sum of around £250 million to give to councils in order to roll back the decision by many to go to rubbish collections every 2 weeks rather than every one.  This scheme implemented to try to maximise the goods recycled by consumers has attracted much criticism, usually from well-to-do house owners who claim that they have more than enough rubbish to warrant a weekly collection.

Eric Pickles, [the man who a year or so ago on BBC’s Question Time attempted to defend the MPs expenses and then got in a strop when the audience expressed its moral outrage by saying that he wasn’t prepared to debate it because in the eyes of the audience MPs couldn’t do anything right anyway] said that the reason the Conservatives had taken this step was because they had evidence that the move would be better for the environment and better for hygiene.  He didn’t however give the source of this evidence, which does not necessarily mean in every circumstance mean that the person speaking made the evidence up, but does on this occasion mean that the person speaking made the evidence up.  This was graphically illustrated by a very calm rational spokesman for Friends of the Earth who pointed out that their evidence showed that people were more likely to recycle if they did not have a rubbish collection every week and furthermore that there had been no evidence to suggest that the change in policy in rubbish collection had anything to do with rat proliferation and that in fact the population of said rodent was in steady decline.  Which, given the nature of modern large tall plastic bins seems of little surprise except in London where everything is just dirty anyway!

Pickles does not stop with the mere making up of facts, he is considerably more pompous than that, he goes further to assert that it is “a right” for people to have their rubbish taken away every week.  “Weekly rubbish collections are the most visible of all frontline services, and I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week.”  Of course the Conservatives have form in a rather subjective interpretation of what constitutes a ‘right’ since they resisted the imposition of the Social Charter from Europe on the grounds that such rights would be too costly, it appears they also have a rather interesting interpretation of what constitutes the visibility of a front-line service, I’d like to offer a school or a hospital as slightly more visible and thereby important examples than a bin.  However state schools and state hospitals are of far less use to your average upper-middle class voter since they would normally be availing of private services already.

According to Pickles to mitigate the recycling issue the government will continue to look at incentive schemes, the one he cites could not be more classic Tory, that of Maidenhead’s points based system that gives vouchers for M&S!  I’m sure this will delight the people on the breadline when they can turn up to avail of a bottle of Chablis to have with their egg and chips.  A situation where people are coerced into compliance is hardly ideal but it has proven at times to be the only way to get people to change their habits, the hope is that once this gathers some impetus people will recognise the value of doing it themselves.  This latest move, I suspect, is designed to give people a grain of sugar to help the nasty tasting medicine go down, and is another example deflection tactics that have been used to obscure attention from the House Of Lords’ reading of Andrew Lansley’s NHS ‘privatisation by stealth’ bill.

Where I live we have not only a good recycling system where glass, tins, cardboard, plastics, paper and garden waste are collected every other week but the county council also fund an extensive composting system where the cost of the hardware is reduced and the installation is free.  This removes the need for quite so much food waste in our bins, one of the things apparently responsible for the problems of not collecting rubbish every week.  I have not filled up my rubbish bin to the top since I moved in over a year ago, and whilst I may live alone most of the week I do have two children and a cat who make more than enough rubbish to compensate for that.

Naturally there are some people who may claim with good reason that they would prefer a weekly collection, those with very young children still in nappies will find their rubbish stacking up quicker than most of us.  However to adjust the whole system for that is like expanding the roads to try to keep in line with the number of cars on it, it is neither economically nor environmentally sensible and likely to create a cyclical necessity.  The move to weekly collections removes precisely the principal incentive for people to recycle assiduously namely that if they do not their bin will overflow.  Yes it would be nice to think that people would recycle out of a feeling of duty to the Earth and our children’s lives in it but I’m afraid if you look around Western Anglophone society these days it is hard to conclude that this is the case.

Pickles has little time for the detractors, it doesn’t help that in one of the interviews he continually referred to “refuge” – perhaps this was a Freudian slip and signified his discomfort having to put another hare-brained scheme before the public.  When asked where the money had come from Pickles with a clear lack of comprehension of irony said that it had been hard but that his department had cut down on waste!  One must applaud the Tories for recycling failed Thatcher policies at least for the lack of new paperwork it creates, the civil service must be delighted, or not since many of them will be made redundant and the rest stripped of their pensions.

Labour’s Caroline Flint criticised the plans and said the money was effectively a bribe to councils to “save Eric Pickles’ face”.  If you take a close look at Eric Pickles’ face Flint’s argument is persuasive, though you might be forgiven for thinking that it is in fact we, the taxpayer, who needed the saving from it and the nonsense that streams from it.

Song Of The Day ~ Juke Box Fury – Something’s Missing