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The Economies of Scale Project - WR0707

With a wide range of authority types and sizes operating in the UK, this study will examine the evidence for how the scale of operation at both a local and regional level influences the performance in delivering waste services.

The Project will consider the factors that may influence successful delivery of waste services across local authorities in England including the level of integration of functions, economic or geographical issues, including the level of investment, technical performance of processes and any specific local issues.

The research will consider the optimal scale for local authorities to work more effectively and efficiently across a range of authority types and functions, including unitary and two tier areas, rural, urban and suburban areas. In considering the optimal size it will also identify some of the opportunities and barriers to improving local government efficiency in delivering waste services.

The project will be delivered in two phases, the first being a scoping study to identify the factors that have influenced the scale at which local authorities have delivered waste services, and any potential gaps in this research. A comprehensive review of existing case studies in the UK will be undertaken to attain a clear evidence base of how geographical scale impacts upon delivery and performance, and the factors that have influenced this. This will be done primarily through a desk-based exercise to draw conclusions from case studies within a range of authority types and sizes. This phase will identify possible correlation between size or type of authority and their performance. Recommendations on the early conclusions, lessons learnt, the robustness of the information gathered and gaps from this phase of the project will inform the second phase of the project.

Phase Two of the project will consider up to six local authorities from a range of backgrounds including two tier and unitary, rural, urban and suburban. This will involve gathering data on performance and efficiency, including information on resources invested in the service, technology employed and difficulties faced, from key stakeholders including local authority officers and members as well as service providers and key regional agencies e.g. Centres of Excellence, Government Offices and Regional Assemblies etc. This information will then be modelled to provide evidence to support robust conclusions on the correlation between scale and efficiency and the factors that have the greatest influence.

A detailed final report will be produced that provides details on the optimal geographical size of a local authority in delivering effective and efficient waste services, how this is best structured and the scope for Defra to influence delivering these efficiencies in local authorities.
The purpose of this project is to improve Defra's understanding of how the scale and function of local authorities may influence successful delivery of waste services across local authorities in England. The issues to be considered in detail include the level of integration of functions, technology choice, economic or geographical issues, including the level of investment, technical performance of processes and any specific local issues. We will aim to build upon the existing evidence base to enable Defra to make informed judgements on how the size and function of a local authority can impact on its performance and efficiency.

A number of local authorities in the UK have considered the optimal size of operation, both in terms of collection and disposal e.g. collection rounds and treatment facility size, as well as at a joint working level. This project will consider the range or work that has been conducted in this area including those local authorities that have come together to deliver successful waste services, areas that have developed new facilities to help deliver those services, and the factors that have influenced the decisions on approach and delivery.

The following objectives will be delivered by the project:

Objective 1: Review existing case studies for evidence on optimal geographical scale.

- To critically review previous research from the literature and other sources (AEA, Defra, ODPM, etc) into optimal scale for delivering waste services.
- To develop and utilise an assessment 'model' to assess this evidence.
- To identify the gaps in this research including geographical, socio-economic, political, size and function of authorities covered to date.
- To explore and provide additional analysis of work undertaken by local authorities to yield an assessment of the factors that determine the optimum scale for waste services including those that these can be quantified through modelling
- To provide robust evidence base on which the optimum scale for delivering waste services can be taken forward to Objective 2 and the production of an interim report

Objective 2: Produce an interim scoping study for discussion

- To understand what factors have influenced local authorities in determining the scales at which they have developed waste services
- To draw out the factors determining optimal scale and highlight conclusions about what can be applied to other local authorities
- To provide an initial estimate of the range of optimal scales of operation of waste services and facilities
- Produce an interim report for discussion with the Project Board that identifies 'gaps' in knowledge and understanding.
- Avoid duplication of effort in examining further local authority work.
- Agree areas for further case studies to be researched.

Objective 3: Evaluate the optimum size of facilities

- To undertake an analysis of the data generated in phase 1 to provide a modelling approach that can determine the range of scale where the service is delivered optimally, whether this is determined by quantity of waste, population or geographic area.
- Develop a generic assessment of the scale of authorities that can be applied to waste management services.

Objective 4: Conduct further supplementary case studies

- To conduct and analyse further research into the 'gaps' identified in Objective 2
- To engage with a broad range of stakeholders on the issue of scale in delivering waste services, including regional Government Offices, Centres of Excellence, Regional Assemblies etc
- To identify further the factors that have influenced optimal scales of working on waste in local authorities
- To compare the issues influencing different local authorities from across the UK
- To conduct a robust examination of all information gathered from a diverse range of sources
- To identify the limitations and opportunities for improving efficiencies across local authorities in England.

The detail of how these case studies are to be constructed will be agreed following Part 1. However, we have carried out a number of integration studies based on existing authority boundaries and our intention is to capture the knowledge from these projects within this study.

Objective 5: Report conclusions

- To summarise the results of the research conducted, including recommendations on the optimal scale at which local authorities can provide effective and efficient waste services.
- To identify the barriers to optimisation for decision-making, investment, procurement, treatment, disposal and collection operations at a range of authority types and settings.
- To consolidate the research at a Regional level
Project Documents
• Final Report : Economies of Scale - Waste Management Optimisation Study - Final Report   (623k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2006

Cost: £45,863
Contractor / Funded Organisations
AEA Technology
Economic performance indicators              
Economic Research              
Environmental Protection              
Local and Regional Government              
Understanding the true cost of waste management              
Waste collection and handling systems              
Waste Management              
Fields of Study
Waste Management