EU Fines Consultation

Posted on 22nd February, 2012

Local authorities may be made to deal with fines over waste management and recycling which were previously levied at a National level. This is now the subject of a European consultation.

Local authorities have been warned on a number of occasions that if they failed to meet landfill diversion targets, they could be fined millions of pounds. Currently, the fine would most probably have been passed on by national UK government to local authorities, if the EU was to fine the UK.

The Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) has been used to ensure that councils meet their landfill targets and help the UK avoid any fines. But with most waste authorities meeting their LATS targets, concerns reduced and the scheme is in the process of being scrapped.

Now, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has opened a consultation on the issue which is based on a proposed policy statement for Part 2 of the Localism Act 2011.

The department said: “The Localism Act provides a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards local people. The Government has given public authorities more powers and freedoms to conduct their business and deliver services to the public. This includes a major reduction in the ‘oversight’ role of central government. Public authorities must, therefore, accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions or omissions.”

DCLG continued: “Part 2 of the Localism Act is about incentivising public authorities to comply with European law, in order to avoid any financial sanctions in the first place. The proposed policy statement sets out a fair, proportionate and reasonable approach for the use of Part 2. The statement has been developed with the Local Government Association and the Greater London Authority. The UK has never to date been fined for an infraction, and we hope that it never will.”

According to the consultation, costs would only be incurred by “those public authorities that had responsibility to comply, had demonstrably caused or contributed to the financial sanction, and had previously been designated under section 52 of the Localism Act for the infraction case in question. It is thought that, through the use of the provisions in the Act to incentivise compliance by public authorities, the risk of financial sanctions being allocated to the UK (and therefore the risk to public authorities) will be significantly reduced.”