The round of in-year cuts, savings and sell-offs announced by chancellor George Osborne is no laughing matter. But there were smiles at MRW Towers when Defra said that one initiative to go was the urban seagull scheme: research into how to stop the little darlings from pestering us town-dwellers.
We smiled because it was the only item Defra came up with publicly to save money: a £250,000 nibble into a required cut of £83m. After Osborne’s announcement, the Institute for Government calculated that only the transport department was hit harder in percentage terms than Defra.
So now we await more details from Defra and the other departments that affect our sector: DCLG (£230m), Decc (£70m) and Business (£450m). All four have what is known as ‘unprotected’ budgets, meaning there is no commitment to maintain spending at current levels, unlike health and schools.
We hope that the Government’s commitment to tackling waste crime will not be watered down. But there must be concerns at Wrap and other Defra-supported bodies that grants will be further eroded, if not this year then next. Local authorities, suffering disproportionate cuts in the past five years, will come under even greater pressure as they strive to hit recycling targets. Meanwhile, consultation on the reform of the Landfill Communities Fund closed this week: could that also be a target for the Treasury?
Perfect timing, then, for the call from Resources & Waste UK, the united lobbying voice of the ESA and CIWM, to set out six key ways that ministers and the industry can work together better. This week also saw leading companies in the UK publish an open letter to the prime minister calling for an energy-efficient and low-carbon economy, including a long-term framework for investment. Such a commitment would fit in well with the European Commission’s desire for its new circular economy package to be led by economic drivers.
In the meantime, our industry gets on with the day job by coming up with excellent innovative ideas. In MRW’s latest issue, for example, we report on how one company is taking waste paint and manufacturing a product with added value.and there is a fascinating report on how separation technology used in the plastics sector is being trialled on textiles. It’s good to end on a bright note.