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Former councillor calls for transparency over new bin collection rules, by local democracy reporter Jude Holden

WILTSHIRE’S new bin collection rules should have been discussed in public and not in a secret meeting a former councillor has said.

The new government bin rules, which are yet to be finalised for Wiltshire, were discussed in a Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting in March but the public were not allowed in.

The council justified excluding the press and public by saying it would have meant publicising exempt information about financial contracts. But former councillor Chris Caswill has said this was not a good enough reason to shut off the conversation.

The cabinet were discussing the Environment Act 2021; under the act councils could be ordered to arrange the separate collection of six types of recyclable waste. The act requires food waste collection must take place at least once a week and councils must collect garden waste for free.

The law used to exclude the public from a meeting is Part II Schedule of 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

Chris said, “I am concerned about the use of Part II procedures in Wiltshire Council to close discussions off. The decision to put their discussion of new bin collection arrangement into Part II is a particularly bad example of abusing this procedure.

“Mixing up discussions about specific contracts with broad issues of public concern leads the council to close the discussion off from the public altogether. It would have been perfectly possible to discuss the main issues in public without impact on individual contracts. That could have been held in private separately.

“I recognise the need for confidentiality on commercial decisions but the issue is whether broad discussions of policy are being blended in with those decisions and that justifies holding the whole issue out of sight.”

In the cabinet meeting’s minutes, it was revealed that members discussed the latest information from the government on “the timing of mandatory separate weekly food waste collections, the implications on the council’s waste contracts and the options for Transitional Arrangements.”

Council leader Richard Clewer said in response, “Given this involves having detailed discussions about existing contracts, it was inappropriate to discuss this in a public forum at this time.

“Specific requirements contained within the Environment Act 2021 will no doubt have a far-reaching impact on Wiltshire, and other local authorities, including on their waste services. Therefore, when we have a clear route forward and are able to confirm more details, we will ensure all relevant stakeholders have all the information they need and can contribute to this important issue.”

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