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We need engagement at this crucial time

Robin Latchem

When was the last time the waste and resource industry gathered at RWM without the spectre of uncertainty? Well before my time at MRW, that’s for sure. 

This time, we are not alone because the UK’s departure from the EU – and how that will affect the sector – is clearly shared across many others.

MRW’s exclusive Industry Insight, a survey conducted during August in time for RWM, has that uncertainty writ large. It is the main offering in our special issue at RWM.

You can see a report on the results here, including the finding that, while half of the respondents thought Brexit would make little difference to their business or organisation, 35% were on the ‘negative’ side and only 13% were ‘positive’. Subscribers to MRW can also see a gallery of the full results.

As part of the survey, we listed issues foremost in people’s minds as businesses and organisations get back to work in earnest after summer breaks. One was ‘lack of Government leadership’. More than six out of 10 respondents said it was a big problem and a further one-in-four considered it ‘significant’, a grand total of 88%, therefore, are not happy with ministerial direction.

The findings came through as Defra declined a request from MRW to interview resource minister Therese Coffey, having previously turned down invitations from RWM for a ministerial keynote speech. Ministers ‘decline’ invitations for all sorts of reasons but it is concerning that Coffey, now more than 15 months into the job, declines to engage with either the sector’s longest-established trade journal or its biggest annual gathering at this key time.

As I tweeted after hearing from Defra, my reaction was not one of slight surprise, just disappointment at that lack of engagement. I was told it was not a permanent ‘no’ – just not at the moment. I’m not holding my breath.

While a speech or an in-depth interview on its own is unlikely to transform the critical sentiment reflected by respondents to our survey, it would at least show an awareness and perhaps understanding of the policy vacuum we all feel and the likely consequences on business, often said to be ministers’ main concern. To be fair, they are unlikely to be much more clued up on the likely post-Brexit position than the next person. But we deserve a chance to have our voices heard. 

I hope you take in the set of findings from our survey, which also covers waste crime and regulation, local authorities and collections, retail and packaging, and public attitudes to the industry. The results will also be carried in our regular October issue for subscribers, including reaction.

We’d love to hear your views as well. Please email me: robin.latchem@emap.com

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