Waste policy in this country is in a “total mess” and there is “a lot for Caroline Spelman to do”, according to the head of the Conservative Environment Network, Peter Ainsworth.
Speaking at Futuresource 2010 at London’s ExCeL, Ainsworth appeared ahead of a planned appearance by Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Caroline Spelman, and outlined some of the challenges he believes will be awaiting Spelman in her new role.
One of the main problems, according to Ainsworth, is a completely “fractured” policy environment with various different public bodies involved in the area of waste management.
Ainsworth explained: “There is Defra which is notionally responsible for setting overall policy, then there is the Department for Communities and Local Government which is responsible for planning, there is the Department for Energy and Climate Change, then there is the Department for Business which is involved because of the enormous economic potential tied up with waste.
“Behind all of that lot, as ever, is the Treasury and below national government there is the myriad of local authorities that all have their own opinion about waste policy as well.”
He also believes that since losing its climate change remit to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Defra has, in reality, little power to implement the sort of policies needed to adequately influence waste management.
He said: “Has Defra got the clout it now needs across Whitehall? The vast majority of funds that pass through Defra’s hands go to farmers or flood prevention they are not spent on waste.
“As we have heard policies dependent on waste are largely dictated by other departments. The question of Caroline Spelman is, even if Defra collectively had the will to make the changes necessary to get a more rational approach to dealing with waste in this country – would it actually have the power to do it?
“I don’t envy Caroline Spelman, I think she has got an incredibly difficult job.”
Despite Ainsworth’s assertions that the UK waste management sector is in a bad way, the French offered a different perspective.
SITA France chairman and CEO Christophe Cros, also speaking at the conference, said of Ainsworth’s comments: “Viewed from France the waste management situation in the UK looks quite promising.”