The Somerset Waste Partnership is a single joint committee comprising members of Mendip, South Somerset, Sedgemoor and West Somerset District Councils, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council.
The body is responsible for waste collection, recycling, treatment and disposal across the county. It has negotiated a deal with ECT Group for waste collection and recycling worth £12 million a year for up to 21 years.
The partnership will save the councils more than £1.3 million a year, Nabarro projects partner James Snape predicted. "A single contract will mean fewer depots and fewer collection vehicles are needed. Over time, the county will move to a common collection system."
Somerset already has a recycling rate of 47 per cent, but it wants to increase this to 60 per cent. A single waste authority will achieve this, councillors believe.
DEFRA and the DCLG are looking at creating statutory joint waste authorities. But the Somerset authorities' work shows that voluntary partnerships in two-tier areas can be delivered without central government intervention, Snape said.
Nabarro is working with Dorset councils on a similar project. "You need full political sign-up to succeed," said Snape. "It takes time for them to give up sovereignty in return for getting a say on the whole waste operation."