Councils win accolades under 'Best Value' regime
The tough scrutiny by Audit Commission inspectors which local authorities have undergone since the 'Best Value' regime came into force is paying dividends as more and more councils make the grade in the environmental and waste services sectors. Councils are also increasingly gaining recognition for their improved performance and innovative thinking under various awards schemes which flag up the vital role that local government plays.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is one of those local authorities with every reason to celebrate after the Audit Commission rated its Waste Management Service as one of the very best in the country.
Following an inspection in September, the auditors rated the service as a "good" two star service with excellent prospects for improvement, matched only by Camden within London.
Cabinet Member for Waste Management, Cllr Richard Walker-Arnott, said: "This is a very encouraging result which highlights the effectiveness and efficiency of our rubbish collection and recycling services. What we need now is to build on this success and persuade more residents to love the streets they live in. That means recycling more, and creating less rubbish in the first place.
"At the same time we need to carry on improving our recycling facilities and finding ways of communicating better with local people and businesses." The report, which was published at the end of October, found recycling rates in the borough currently running at just over 20% cent and that rubbish collection and recycling services are accessible and responsive to local people.
Prospects for further improvement are excellent according to the Commission. It singled out the council's leadership and willingness to change, along with its continued commitment to initiatives such as recycling wardens.
On a wider front, the Local Government Association (LGA) is taking the lead in encouraging better performance, most recently in the shape of a waste prevention guide designed to help helps councils tackle the rising tide of rubbish.
Promoting real nappies, supporting second hand schemes and charging households for excess waste are just some of the ideas to help authorities cut rising levels of household rubbish set out in the publication, "10 easy ways to prevent waste." The guide gives local authorities simple ideas to cut waste and reduce soaring costs for bin collection and street cleaning, the most severely under-funded of all council services. It includes case studies of successful local authority schemes up and down the country.
Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the LGA's Environment Board, said: "This guide demonstrates that many local councils are forging ahead with innovative ways to reduce the amount we throw away and boost recycling rates. "Councils have huge further potential in this area, but are currently facing a 'double whammy' of squeezed funding for environmental services and a host of new national and EU waste targets", he added.
"Despite rising levels of waste and spiralling disposal costs, the Chancellor's three-year spending review awarded councils a funding rise of just 0.6% in the first year - a cut in real terms. The settlement for the next two years - around one per cent over inflation - will be quickly eaten up by already cash-starved services."
The LGA estimates the cost of waste management is likely to rise to around £100 per tonne in 2010.
Also addressing waste issues is The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has issued a direction to West London Waste Authority (WLWA) under section 356 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This is the first time that the Mayor has issued a direction to a waste authority since he was elected Mayor in 2000.
The direction requires West London Waste Authority to produce a strategy which takes into account the views of the public and considers the impact on the environment of any further waste treatment services they use. This is so they cannot enter into further waste treatment contracts until the Mayor is convinced that the services are in the interests of London and its neighbours.Awards winners
Several authorities have been celebrating awards on the environmental and waste management front.
Norfolk County Council has won two prestigious national awards for outstanding examples of environmental best practice. The County Council was named the overall winner in the Environment category of the Green Apple Award for Local Authorities at a ceremony at the House of Commons on Thursday 4 November an it also also received a silver award in the Building and Construction category for its work on NORA (Nar Ouse Regeneration Area) in King's Lynn.
Also celebrating is Stockport Council after success in the Green Apple Awards. Waste Management won an award for Engaging the Community (including hard to reach groups) into Waste Minimisation and Recycling. The submission detailed the various ways in which the Council involved the community, such as the introduction of mini recycling sites into high and low rise blocks of flats (Radnor House and Lancashire Hill) and how Waste Management has overcome disability and language barriers by offering leaflets in Braille, large print, audio etc.
Regeneration won an award for the River Mersey Development Programme. The Recycle Western Riverside (RWR) campaign has won the Gold Award in the Green Apple Environmental Best Practice 2004 awards for Environmental Partnerships under the Commerce and Industry sector.
The campaign was presented with the award in recognition for the work it has done to promote the implementation of effective, harmonised recycling services across the four Western Riverside boroughs and its effectiveness at communicating with residents.