What Next For Joint Waste Authorities?

Recently the issue of shared services has been high on the

agenda for many local authorities. The benefits of working together

are irrefutable and may provide valuable gains in efficiency and

resource terms. However, there is still much debate about the

mechanisms for shared services and how the legalities of these can

be clarified and simplified.

In some areas, statutory joint arrangements were established by

the government. There are many examples of this, such as in

relation to airports and buses; in the area of waste management,

statutory arrangements accompanied the abolition of the

metropolitan county councils in the mid 1980s.

It is in the area of waste that this issue has come back to the

fore. Most authorities are not covered by the statutory

arrangements and in the interim couple of decades, waste management

has become much more politically difficult, has had its status

enhanced by its clear link to the climate change agenda and devours

substantially more resources, with landfill tax and other charges

escalating. So joint working in waste management is becoming more


One of the perceived barriers in this area, however, is the

legal mechanism of joint arrangements, bearing in mind that there

are very substantial value contracts in play, significant assets

and a large workforce. Under administrative arrangements,

therefore, a 'lead authority' role is onerous.

The government has recognised this and therefore consulted in

March of this year on a proposal which first emerged last year to

enable the creation of new statutory Joint Waste Authorities. These

would be new statutory corporations, with legal status and

therefore the ability to enter into contracts and employ staff. The

argument that enhanced legal mechanisms would stimulate the move by

local government to more joint arrangements had been won; the

government then needed to put those measures in place.

It did this by Part 11 of the Local Government and Public

Involvement in Health Act 2007, where s205 allows two or more

authorities to apply to the Secretary of State to establish a joint

waste authority to discharge some or all of their waste functions.

It was made clear that which functions are included is a matter for

the authorities concerned, although the full complement would be

refuse collection, waste disposal and street cleansing combined. It

was made clear that these new authorities were

'operational' in nature and could not be created merely for


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