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Charged with making waste ends meet

It’s 7am on the settee at home, coffee in one hand and the phone in the other. Waiting my turn.

I had been invited to contribute to the breakfast show of BBC Wiltshire about garden waste, and I was fortified by publication the day before of a CIWM report on how local authorities have been responding to spending cuts under the coalition Government.

It included a survey indicating that 20% of responding councils are now charging for green waste and a further 20% are thinking about doing so. So, I was able to inform BBC Wiltshire’s listeners that they were not alone and should not be surprised if other ways of saving money on the waste budget are tried in future.

There’s more on this here, including a plea from Larac chief executive Lee Marshall for communications budgets to be maintained because residents are still confused about collection methods and the UK recycling rate is barely rising.

I thought about his warning when, before I took my turn on the airwaves, I heard a BBC journalist reminding listeners how Wiltshire got to a point such that charging £40 a year for green waste was the single biggest grievance when the council’s ‘austerity’ budget also included cuts to bus services, music lessons and the arts. The real problem, it turned out, was democracy.

In the autumn, residents were asked whether they wanted green waste collections to be charged, dropped in the winter or stopped altogether. Most backed the winter option, so they were doubly furious when the council promptly ignored the consultation as being unaffordable and went for charging. Getting that ‘new’ message across would be a real challenge for any comms team.

But the wider picture, as shown by the CIWM report, is that councils have produced genuine leadership and great innovation in the face of the biggest cuts imposed on any part of the public sector. Regardless of the result of the election, I am sure more councils will be assessing what they can charge for within the rules.

But undoubtedly the biggest news was the closure of Aylesford Newsprint’s plant in Kent. Our thoughts go to the scores of people losing their jobs and those in the supply chain whose future is now much less sure. The uncertain times continue.

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