Select Committee on Public Accounts Forty-Seventh Report



THE ASSESSMENT OF VALUE FOR MONEY

  1. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of the Government's strategy for delivering sustainable waste management, of which the Landfill Tax and the associated Credit Scheme form a part.[32] However, despite their role, and that of Customs and ENTRUST, it is up to site operators and/or environmental bodies to decide whether individual projects represent value for money, even though they would not necessarily make a contribution to the scheme.[33]
  2. One original purpose of the Scheme was that a lot of the money would be spent locally because landfill sites are unpopular installations. The object was to encourage operators to work with community groups to find ways of spending this money locally to improve the amenity of the area. In addition, since landfill operators only received 90 per cent of the cost of schemes in tax credits, they have an incentive to draw in third party contributors although in the majority of cases they proceed without them. The Scheme has been successful in generating a lot of local interest. On the other hand, Customs accept that these are small projects that could not all be audited, and there is a question whether the Scheme achieves strategic as opposed to local goals, particularly as the sums available have now grown to some 100 million a year.[34]
  3. Although from the start of the Scheme in 1996 to August 2000, environmental bodies received total contributions from site operators of 285 million, only 135 million had been spent on projects by August 2000. The Comptroller and Auditor General recommended that environmental bodies should commit contributions to projects within two years after receipt, to help ensure that large surpluses were not built up by bodies which could lead to abuses of the Scheme.[35]
  4. Customs explained that the build up of unspent funds was partly because the Scheme had grown very rapidly and there was a lag between money being committed and spent. Reporting arrangements also led to a lag of some 5 months in reported spending. However, as the Scheme matured the percentage spent relative to commitments was rising, and was nearing 65 per cent.[36] Although this left 120 million unspent in bank accounts,[37] from ENTRUST's regulatory point of view the unspent money was not a concern because it, and any interest earned, was within the Scheme and monitored. That said, they had no powers to speed up the spend, although they had discussed with Customs whether they could get them. Customs, on the other hand were concerned about the level of unspent funds, and they were looking at options, including the Comptroller and Auditor General's recommendation to introduce some form of deadline for funds to be committed. They were, however, concerned not to lose good large schemes that took some time to deliver.[38]
  5.  

  6. The Treasury accepted that the nature of the Scheme, particularly the focus on funding projects in line with local priorities, made it difficult to establish value for money and effectiveness. This was partly why the Government, which as a whole was responsible for the value for money from the Scheme, was reviewing it and alternative options.[39]
  7. Despite the absence of any overall assessment of value for money and effectiveness, ENTRUST saw a number of positive outcomes of the Scheme. It had created a genuine bottom-up system where the aspirations of a large number of small local groups could be met. The Scheme had created new partnerships, some unprecedented, between landfill operators and citizens locally, and between local authorities and voluntary groups. Moreover, many schemes had contributed to the Governments sustainable objectives, for example in assisting re-cycling. Since the Government had proposed that 65 per cent should be targeted on sustainable waste management there had been a shift in funding towards such projects from 33 per cent to 56 per cent (Figure 3).[40]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Proportion of Landfill Tax Funding Allocated to Specific Categories of Projects

 

 

 

 

1997

 

1998

 

1999

 

2000

 

2001 (to October)

 

Future plans - 11% none specified

 

 

 

 

 

 

m

 

m

 

m

 

m

 

m

 

m

 

Total contributions reported by environmental bodies

 

65

 

80

 

88

 

113

 

74

 

 

 

 

Total spend reported by environmental bodies

 

N/A

 

28

 

76

 

52

 

95

 

 

 

 

Cumulative % spend by objective

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A: reclamation of land whose use is prevented by a previous activity

 

N/A

 

7.1

 

5.5

 

7.0

 

6.5

 

2

 

B: reduction or prevention of pollution of land which was caused by a previous activity

 

N/A

 

0.5

 

0.6

 

0.6

 

0.4

 

0

 

C: research and development, education or collection and dissemination of information: about more sustainable waste management practices or CC: to encourage the development of products from waste or markets for recycled waste

 

N/A

 

31.0

 

34

 

34

 

33.2

 

57

 

D: the provision, maintenance or improvement of a public park or other public amenity in the vicinity of a landfill site

 

N/A

 

50.8

 

51

 

48.4

 

50.9

 

29

 

E: the maintenance, repair or restoration of a building or other structure of religious or architectural interest in the vicinity of a landfill site

 

N/A

 

10.3

 

8.5

 

9.7

 

8.6

 

1

 

F: the provision of financial, administration and other similar services to enrolled environmental bodies

 

N/A

 

0.3

 

0.4

 

0.3

 

0.3

 

0

 

 

 


32   C&AG's Report on the Appropriation Accounts 1999-2000, Volume 16 (HC 25-XVI, Session 2000-01) para 4.26 Back

33   Ibid, para 4.4; Qs 7, 63-70 Back

34   Qs 53, 75, 92, 183-185 Back

35   C&AG's Report on the Appropriation Accounts 1999-2000, Volume 16 (HC 25-XVI, Session 2000-01) paras 4.8, 4.27 Back

36   Qs 4, 11 Back

37   Qs 11-13 Back

38   Qs 134-137, 141, 166-169; Ev 24, Appendix1 (ref to Q143) Back

39   Qs 7-10 Back

40   Qs 19, 83, 177-181; Ev 24-25, Appendix 1 (ref to Q180) Back

 
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