Waste & Recycling Survey results

Thanks to publicity in the local press, my recent online survey asking people for their views on our waste collection service, was a success. Even more so, my thanks go to the nearly 100 people who were kind enough to take the time and trouble to complete the survey.  I will be getting in touch with all those of you who ticked that box at some point.  The results were as follows:

I should remind readers that this was a personal survey, as the cabinet member with responsibility for such things.  It was not on behalf of South Holland District Council. 

Q1. How important is a WEEKLY WASTE collection to you?

 

% response

Number of respondents

Not very important

5.2%

5

Quite important

11.5%

11

Very important

78.1%

75

Q2. How important is a WEEKLY RECYCLING collection to you?
Not very important

9.4%

9

Quite important

19.8%

19

Very important

63.5%

61

Q3.  Would you be prepared to pay for a GREEN waste collection?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

9.5%

9

Maybe

17.9%

17

Yes

72.6%

69

Q4.  Would you be unhappy if the council stopped providing BLACK refuse sacks?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Not at all

16%

15

Slightly

25.5%

24

Very

58.5%

55

Q5.  Would you be unhappy if the council reduced the number of GREEN recycling bags you could have?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Not at all

10.5%

10

Slightly

18.9%

18

Very

70.5%

67

Q6.  Would you recycle LESS if the number of green recycling bags you received was reduced?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

31.9%

30

Maybe

24.5%

23

Yes

43.6%

41

Q7.  Would you recycle LESS if NO green bags were provided to you?
 

% response

Number of respondents

No

24.5%

23

Maybe

22.3%

21

Yes

53.2%

50

Q8.  Do you think most people use litter bins if they are provided?
Yes

35.2%

32

Sometimes

40.7%

37

No

24.2%

22

Q9.  Which age group is the WORST for dropping litter?
 

% response

Number of respondents

Young

47.8%

44

Middle aged

3.3%

3

Elderly

1.1%

1

All as bad

47.8%

44

       

Don’t get misled by the facts

There’s a piece in the latest Local Government Association (LGA) First magazine, that could easily prove extremely misleading to elected members, given that it suggests that, despite all the budget cuts and threats to services, councils’ are doing okay.

The article is actually extracted from something written Neil Wholey, Head of Research and Customer Insight at Westminster City Council – whatever that is, the job, not the council. Whilst the piece may not be inaccurate in any way, the author obviously knows his stuff and the facts are the facts, it’s certainly likely to offer a misleading picture to those who, when reading it, don’t bother to separate out the elements that make up a council.

As a LGA publication, it’s difficult not to see the magazine as primarily a vehicle for communicating with elected members, as opposed to the professionals and this where the misleading bit begins.  The article called, Residents’ Views, tells the reader that, despite all the hardships being visited on taxpayers by government, local government’s reputation is doing surprisingly well.

I’ve no reason to doubt what the author is saying when it comes to public opinion, especially if the questions were asked in a way that avoids any reference to the politics of the council.  The problem comes when an elected member reads this and either misses, or completely ignores, the basis on which the questions were asked.  The public are expressing a view of their experience of the council, not the councillors.

I wonder what the answer would have been if, instead of asking, ‘overall do you think the council is providing good services in your area?’ they had asked, ‘how well do you think the (insert political group name as appropriate) are running your local council?’.  By inserting politics into the question, you immediately invite a biased response, based on the politics of the person being asked the question. Taken a step further, even if the council is performing well, the fact that it is controlled by one, or other of the political parties, will be far more influential when it comes to an election, than any public satisfaction survey, however rosy a picture it paints.

 

My point is, that any politician reading this and taking it at face value, could be in danger of deluding themselves in to thinking that taxpayer satisfaction with ‘the council’, is the same as satisfaction with ‘the councillors’.

Desperation or inappropriate favouritism?

The latest bright idea from the coalition government, liberalised gambling laws, has an uncanny parallel with a similar bright idea of the previous Labour Government – 24 hour drinking.

The changes to the licensing laws have been an unmitigated disaster for our town centres, making them no-go areas at weekends, unless you are one of the thousands of 18-30’s determined to become hopelessly intoxicated and dangerously aggressive.

Changing the gambling laws won’t have the same type of negative impact as the changes to the drinking laws. However, making it even easier for the public at large to gamble to excess, will prove just as damaging in the long run. I can’t workout whether this is an idea born out of desperation to find a further source of deficit reducing revenue, or a sign of some sort of inappropriate favouritism, where looking after the financial interests of those who fund political parties and campaigns, takes precedent over everything else. I wonder how many expensive lunches it took the gambling industry to persuade ministers this was a good idea.

These proposals have been dressed up as localising control, giving councils the power to determine what happens locally. If its anything like the licensing laws, all it will do is impose yet another function on councils that are already struggling to maintain current services. The one thing it won’t do, is, as with the licensing laws, give councils the ability to say no, simply because they believe it would be bad for their community.

Whilst on the subject of lobbying, how long do you think it will take before ministers start releasing media statements, saying how good it would be for everybody if we retained the changes to Sunday Trading laws, currently only in place for the Olympics.

The death of local government?

Localism, community right to challenge, independent schools, neighbourhood planning, community panels and of course, directly elected mayors. A common thread here, or to use the current jargon, the golden thread, is community. You could actually translates the term community into, ‘non-local government’. I say local government, because central government has made sure that none of the plans put forward for the reform of public services, have threatened their continued existence.

There’s been a concerted effort by the likes of Eric Pickles and George Osbourne, to make local government the villains of the piece, in taxpayers’ eyes, when it comes to the cost of providing public services. This ‘official’ campaign is under-pinned by the long held and media fuelled public perception of local government – It’s full of pen pushing bureaucrats; they all have a job for life so do as little as possible; what they do do, is always done at half speed; there’s too many managers, getting inflated levels of pay; when they retire, it’s too early and they all get a gold-plated pension. Oh! and while we’re at, those bloody councillors are a waste of space and get too much in expenses! They actually mean allowances, as expense are simply the refunding of what’s been paid out for things such as travel, whereas allowances are what councillors receive for being councillors.

Given this unremitting assault on local government from all sides, one has to wonder how long it will be before local government becomes pretty much extinct, which it’s difficult not to see as the ultimate ambition for Whitehall – why? Think about it – a large amount of tax revenue is currently diverted to local government through the grant process. Leaving most local services to be provided and therefore funded by the communities that use them, would give government a very large pot of money that wasn’t available before. Those services that are left for local government to provide, such as emptying the bins, will be funded from the perpetually frozen council tax, the partial retention of the business rates and possibly CIL. There will of course be a few other roles for local government to fulfil, because the government either can’t be bothered with it, or need to deflect blame away from themselves by putting somebody else in the firing line. Public health and the universal credit being the current ones.

Adult social care and the growing concerns surrounding the cost of provision suggests that this could still be the elephant in the room. However, given how duplicitous central government has been towards local government to date, I suspect they already have a plan that will leave local government further sidelined and weakened, whilst also being blamed for its failings.

Local press helps the mall monsters stick it to our town

A nasty piece of propaganda from the ‘shopping mall’ industry was printed in today’s Lincs Free Press and cannot go unchallenged. Having penned a letter criticising the newspaper for printing it, I thought I’d hedge my bets by repeating it here.

Dear sir,

I write to express my disappointment that you should print propaganda from the commercial property industry, that has nothing good to say about our town – Property page 17 July, ‘High Streets…can’t cope’.

The mix of fact and totally biased opinion, was unremitting negative and suggested every high street was destined to be annihilated by the shopping centres Mr Nick Round makes his living from promoting.

This was neither freedom of speech, nor simple advertising, although I’m sure Mr Round’s company was more than pleased to get the free advertising. Neither, given its position in the newspaper, was it personal opinion and it certainly wasn’t news. I would not be surprised to see almost the same article repeated in every local newspaper across the country, with just the statistics and the name of the town being undermined, changed to suit.

Gore Lane Fly Tipping

Today’s press contains, yet again, a story about Gore Lane and the ongoing fly tipping problem there.  Although I gave the reporter a fairly comprehensive comment, repeated below, this was abridged for the press item.  

This is a long-term problem area, that is caused by a couple of issues.  The main area of fly tipping has been identified as the collection point for the refuse and recycling generated by adjacent properties.  This is not an ideal situation, but it does address the previous situation, whereby residents were dumping their full refuse bags onto the public footpath, despite many attempts to stop this anti-social practice.
Unfortunately, the creation of a collection point has not reduced the selfish practice of bags being disposed of in to the collection point when they are full, instead of only on the scheduled collection day.  This in turn has encouraged people to fly tip into the collection area.  Put simply, rubbish, attracts rubbish.
The problem of fly tipping is not just restricted to Spalding, or indeed South Holland.  In order to address it effectively, through the use of the law, we need to catch the offenders red-handed.  The very limited resources of the district council means that we need the help of the public to deal with these criminals.  I would therefore ask for the public’s help in identifying these ‘environmental terrorists’.  Without putting themselves at risk, we would ask anybody seeing suspicious activity, to make a note of what is being dumped, the type of vehicle being used, including its number plate if at all possible and a description of the people involved.  This information should be passed on to both the police and the district council.
Finally, the council is also looking at the responsibilities of landlords for the behaviour of their tenants and will be seeking to make them take a more proactive approach to this issue.

My final paragraph could, potentially, of given the reporter a stick with which to beat the council, as the area in question may well belong to SHDC.  That said, if it does, it also gives me a better chance of sorting the problem out as, in the worst case scenario, I will be pushing to have the car park closed, thereby limiting access to the dump site by any vehicles.

This rubbish doesn’t get there on its own and, in the case of a mattress, is unlikely to be carried through the streets by somebody without being noticed.  I have asked for the public’s help in fighting this crime because, without it, we are likely to be fighting a loosing battle.

Be patient, we’ll be gone soon enough

Those taxpayers who think councillors are a waste of their council tax and should be done away with, just need to be patient for a few more years, if the local government press is to be believed.

Apparently, the bill for adult social care will increase at such a rate, whilst local government funding will be reduced at a similar rate, that there will no money left to do anything else. It’s estimated that the adult care bill will absorb 90% of the available funding, with the remainder being used to empty the bins. If this forecast is accurate, then I think there will be little need for elected members in whatever remains of local government.

As well as helping to formulate policy for the wide range of services councils currently provide, councillors also set the tax rate that partly pays for these services. Just as importantly, councillors help local taxpayers deal with the effects of those policies, especially when they don’t work as advertised, or even don’t work at all. It therefore follows, that by starving local government of funding, apart from those needed for adult care and emptying the bins, elected members will have little or no policies to formulate and very few issues to help taxpayers with. No policies = no problems = problem solved.

Central government will be able to keep the masses distracted by continuing to promote elected mayors, so there’s something local for them to vote for every few years. Local democratic energies will be absorbed by the outcomes of localism. Local people will need to spend their time running the services they value and that used to be run by councils. This may ultimately lead to the creation of a group of community leaders, trusted by the public to steward these services and charged with making the best use of their communities hard earned money. Indeed, they may even be called councillors.