There was rumours a-plenty this week to believe that the three Cabinet ministers with responsibilities across our industy might be shifted in David Cameron’s reshuffle - but in the event there was just one.
Owen Paterson’s sacking from Defra did not prompt any significant complaints in the waste sector, based on social media at least. He had shown little interest in the industry, although he did host a gathering of investors and would-be investors in May 2013. At the time, Liz Goodwin wrote in her blog about “a noticeable energy in the room” but wanted “more consistency and continuity in government policy to give confidence to investors”. It’s difficult to see how Paterson delivered on that hope in the intervening months. Critics accused him of spurning any green-ish agenda and he put far greater store on driving the red tape challenge than the EU waste target challenge.
It remains to be seen how his successor Liz Truss will fare in the short time to the next election. The only time she has registered on our radar was as a local MP opposed to Norfolk County Council’s doomed energy-from-waste (EfW) facility at Saddlebow - which she challenged on economic grounds. The scheme figured in arguments on the UK infrastructure capacity for EfW, a debate re-opened by the Green Investment Bank which suggests there will be a capacity gap of up to 7.7 million tonnes. This is (at least) the sixth significant report on the theme in the past two years and we are far from a consensus on addressing the problem – if problem there is.
Incidentally – Cameron’s retention of Eric Pickles as communities secretary confirms what is likely to be a keynote speech highlight at RWM in September. It would have been a shame to miss Pickles’ latest observations on household collections and – perhaps after Norfolk – how he decides on planning applications for controversial waste facilities. But his sidekick Brandon Lewis was moved from DCLG. Since he once claimed that “town hall jobsworths, over-zealous NGOs and vested interests in the waste industry remain blindly obsessed with restricting bin collections”, there are unlikely to be many tears among MRW’s readers at that minister’s departure.