Everyone will have their individual experience of RWM and it is hoped that it was an excellent one for you, particularly if you were looking to win or place business. For me as a journalist, RWM is an undefined algorithm that factors in meeting people, learning new things and sharing in the best practice on the show floor and in the theatres.
One particular keynote speech struck home: the farewell of Mat Crocker from his post as deputy director of illegals at the Environment Agency (EA). His departure – and that of another 51 people in the agency’s environment and business division – is a reminder that Theresa May’s Government may have turned away from austerity goals but the impact of George Osborne’s spending cuts in the past two years are still being felt.
There is the real fear that the EA job losses will have a profound impact on the fight against waste crime, not least because of the experience being shown the door. A fellow speaker at RWM, senior adviser Allan Holmes, is also leaving at the end of the month. The EA spokesperson was keen to stress that they were participating in Whitehall’s ‘early leavers’ scheme (see correction below) which “are only allowed if they generate savings”.
As long as it saves money, it’s acceptable, then. What about the loss of experience and expertise? It is a concern shared by those with whom I discussed Crocker’s departure at RWM. His address provided a prima facie case for concern. He modestly chalked up the successes of his five years in post: 31 prison sentences and more than £4m in fines, and a forecast that the agency’s work would mean more of each in the future. He said he was leaving what he “genuinely believed” was now a better organisation for dealing with waste crime.
The EA has its critics within the sector, with claims of inflexibility and an unwillingness to understand the pressures of being in business. But regulation is at the core of the industry and we need the best regulators. Crocker praised the ESA, CIWM and others for standing alongside the agency and embracing the ’Right Waste, Right Place’ campaign. He also praised them for helping to secure an extra £33m for fighting waste crime in the past couple of years while Defra was so affected by overall cuts.
A positive development in recent years has been the growth of multi-agency efforts to tackle crime, notably the partnership with HMRC. These growing relationships across departments must not be lost as experienced people leave key offices. We wish Mat, Allan and the other 50 well in their new lives outside the EA.
Finally, an unashamed plug for the National Recycling Awards 2017. The big night is not until 28 June but entries are now open! Dive in to tell us about your best practice and award-winning initiatives – and good luck.
- UPDATE 21 Sept: I was wrong about the name of this scheme. It is the ’voluntary exit’ scheme. Apologies to the Environment Agency spokesperson, although the effect is the same: Mat and others leave early and the EA saves money and loses their expertise.
2000 NRA kick off 2017