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When the long grass grows ever denser

Robin Latchem

The outcome of the general election will have wide but uncertain ramifications across the UK and possibly the rest of Europe. 

I’m taken by the argument that a bigger majority for Theresa May will allow her to govern from the centre of her party without being blown by the side winds from the extremes. If that means frustrating climate change deniers and those whose attitude to EU-led regulations is a knee-jerk rejection, then maybe it will be for the good.

But it also mean policy delays. The long-awaited 25-year environment plan must be even further in the distance than ever, let alone the framework which precedes it. The period of ‘purdah’, by which no new policy developments can be made, kicked in on 22 April, leaving no time for the release of strategy papers for which there had hitherto been little enthusiasm - and that appears to have included 25-year environment plans. One assumes the (apolitical) chief scientific officer’s anticipated report on waste as a resource will also affected by purdah (it was originally slated for around last Christmas).

And we will almost certainly get a new tranche of ministers. In the past, this column has bemoaned what has become virtually an annual task for sector leaders to get to know their new Defra politicians and to revisit resource-efficient arguments. I recently read a blog listing the more than 50 official meetings that environment secretary Andrea Leadsom and waste minister Therese Coffey had in their first six months of office. Worringly, only one (with Coffey) was with a representative of our sector, so perhaps there’s less to worry about on that score.

But it is a depressing thought that an industry which the Environmental Services Association estimates is worth £11bn and directly employs more than 100,000 gets only one hearing whereas the same minister twice met representatives of the ‘rural childcare industry’ .

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