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When total funding is calculated per head, English councils are once again worse off.
“What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference” Jo Miller, Solace president
In 2018-19 English councils are receiving, on average, £1,423 to spend on services per person. This is more than a third lower than what their counterparts in Wales and Scotland are given to spend per person this year – £2,309 and £2,237 respectively.
While the amount of per capita funding made available to councils in Wales and Scotland has increased by 5.2% and 0.2% respectively in absolute terms since 2010-11, England has witnessed a 29.8% reduction in the last eight years.
Commenting on the findings, Jo Miller, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, who writes on the issue for LGC today, said: “What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference. With a comprehensive spending review on the horizon, and the need for a preserved union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland post Brexit, the case for genuine devolution within England grows ever stronger.”
Both the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government declined to comment on the findings.
However, in his Budget speech last month chancellor Philip Hammond said English local government had “made a significant contribution to repairing the public finances”. He pointed to £1bn extra funding for social care, and the removal of the housing borrowing cap, as proof the government was giving councils “more resources to deliver high quality public services.”
Mr Hammond also said “longer-term funding decisions [for English councils] will be made at the spending review.”
In an interview with LGC, local government minister Rishi Sunak said he did not recognise the national disparities highlighted by our analysis but added “we have a devolved country so whatever Scotland and Wales want to prioritise is up to them. It’s not for me to tell them what to do.”
Mr Sunak said that while he preferred to “focus on outcomes, not necessarily just inputs”, the extra money in the Budget amounted to a “pretty serious statement of intent”.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said its councils had been “protected from the worst effects” of austerity. She added: “We value local government services in Wales and believe in strong local government. We recognise their importance, particularly for some of the most vulnerable in our society, and the role these services play in enabling people to achieve their potential and to live independently, in supporting safe and prosperous communities and in building local economies.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.”
All the plastic you can and cannot recycle
Most people are trying their best to recycle plastic – but the many different ways in which recycling is collected by different councils across the UK has left them confused.
What can be recycled and what can’t? We are putting more plastic in the recycling than ever before – but pictures of sea life tangled in all manner of waste plastic mean the pressure is on to do more.
The government is now considering changing the way plastic is recycled in England. In the rest of the UK the strategy for recycling is a devolved issue.
Each council collects their plastic recycling differently. BBC analysis shows there are 39 different sets of rules for what can be put in plastic recycling collections:
- Most collect bottles
- Others collect pots, tubs and trays
- Some collect a much wider range
Around the UK, all four nations are hoping to improve their recycling rates. The review by the government may change the target for recycling in England, but currently the aim is that 50% of waste will be recycled by 2020.
Scotland has a target to recycle 70% of waste by 2025 as does Wales. Northern Ireland has a proposal that 60% of municipal waste is recycled by 2020.
Waste plastic is collected is different ways too:
- Some local authorities collect all their recycling in one bin
- Others ask households to separate their plastics from the rest of their recycling
Councils also employ many different companies to collect and sort their plastics.
And having different recycling schemes in different areas – for example, in some areas you can recycle margarine tubs and in other areas you cannot – makes labelling difficult.
Most people in Britain regularly recycle plastic but almost half have had disagreements at home about what type they can put in which bin, a ComRes poll for the BBC suggests.
And more than a quarter have these disagreements at least once a month.
What to expect from the government’s review?
Of all the things we recycle, plastic is the most complicated. It comes in a profusion of very different types.
Many products carry labels about recycling but some do not. And the labels themselves can be a problem.
Your eye might fall on a recycling symbol but miss the very small print saying the item will not actually be collected from your home.
If you see the phrase “widely recycled” on a packet or carton, it means many councils will take it but not necessarily all of them.
Each of the UK’s local authorities has come to its own decisions about what to accept and what to refuse:
- In Reading, a yoghurt pot can be thrown into recycling
- In Manchester it cannot
- Swindon has plans to join the small band of councils recycling no plastic at all
The government realises the arrangements can be confusing, even irritating. And in England it’s undertaking a review of the whole recycling system.
- Ministers could order manufacturers to use only the types of plastic that are easiest to recycle – but might that lead to higher prices?
- They could insist on labels that everyone can see and understand – but how would that work on tiny pots and bottles?
- A more controversial idea is to get councils to harmonise their plastic recycling systems – but that risks provoking an uproar over local democracy
The desire to boost plastic recycling rates is clear. But every option comes with challenges. The word is, we’ll see the government’s plans in November.
Plastic can often become too contaminated for recycling and have to be sent to landfill or incinerated instead. This happens for several reasons:
- People are confused about what goes in which bin
- People are not always very careful about what they put in
- The plastic is contaminated with food waste
- In areas where all recycling is collected in one bin, one type of waste can contaminate another
Plastic packaging is made from seven different types
- Bottles are mainly made of PET and HDPE and these are easy to collect and recycle
- Most trays are made from polypropylene and this is pretty easy to recycle too but not all councils have access to the right facilities
- LDPE, used to make some carrier bags and cling film, is easy to process but more difficult to sort and can often be contaminated with food
- Polystyrene, used to make some yoghurt pots and plastic cutlery, is not widely recycled
- PVC makes up small amount of packaging but can contaminate other plastic recycling
- Biscuit wrappers and meat trays can be made from a mixture of many different types of plastic, making them the most difficult type of packaging to recycle
All plastic can be recycled – but it is not always economical to do so.
- Bottles attract the best prices, especially clear ones, which is why almost all councils recycle them
- Coloured plastic is less desirable because the colour cannot be removed, restricting its reuse
- Polystyrene is almost never recycled because there is no market for it
Most bottles will be sent for reprocessing in this country.
But plastic that is less valuable – about two-thirds collected for recycling – goes overseas and this figure has been rising.
Earlier this year, the National Audit Office reported the plastic sent abroad could be highly contaminated, meaning it may not be reprocessed and could end up in landfill or contributing to pollution.
Some countries are refusing to take any more of our waste.
- China and Thailand have banned waste imports
- Malaysia is considering banning imports of waste plastic
These bans are having an effect on the prices paid for waste plastic.
And this year the prices of the more contaminated plastics have fallen below zero, meaning companies are now expecting to be paid to take them away.
Design: Debie Loizou. Development: Eleanor Keane.
A COALITION of retailers, landlords, councils and pubs has called for planning laws to be torn up so that abandoned shops can be turned into cafes, galleries, gyms and other businesses that could help rejuvenate Britain’s decimated high streets.
Empty units in the middle of towns and villages are often hard to let because it can be difficult and expensive to get permission to change their use. For example, a unit used as a hairdresser’s needs permission to be changed into a nail bar.
“At present, it can take about eight weeks and cost about £500,” said the British Property Federation, which represents shops’ landlords. It wants to change the rules to keep up to date with modern shopping habits, as online sales take retail business away from high streets.
This makes it crucial those selling “experiences” can move into empty units once used for retail.
The landlords’ call to chop back planning rules was joined by other groups who said the move could revitalise high streets. The proposals came in responses to an inquiry by the housing, communities and local government select committee.
“Traditional shop uses have become increasingly blurred, as coffee shops also become mini-libraries, and independent gyms house cafes. Although businesses have adapted to challenges, planning laws have not,” said the Federation of Small Businesses. “Planning conditions seek to regulate every type of floor space, from sale space to a gym floor. These strict regulations and planning conditions drastically reduce businesses flexibility and adaptability, reducing their ability to compete.”
The British Retail Consortium agreed, calling for regulators to “ease of change of use [rules].”
The Booksellers’ Association said it wants “simply less red tape”. It wants more creative use of empty space to bring shoppers back to the high street, including “use of empty shops to promote arts activities and artisan crafts”.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), said “transforming the fortunes of high streets is eminently possible”.
“High quality visitor experiences” help as does a recognition that “far more than just ‘shopping’ is allowing some town centres and their high streets to change and thrive,” said British BIDs.
The Local Government Association said it is time to recognise “a contraction in retail floor space” may be needed to help high streets survive.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said high streets should specialise if they want to thrive. “Examples include Ludlow’s reputation as a centre for ‘slow food’, Norwich’s coordinated approach to its medieval heritage and the ‘alternative’ identity created in Stokes Croft, Bristol.”
AN MP, farmers and the RSPCA have issued warnings over Chinese lanterns after a horse was set on fire and lost part of its tail.
Bastante, a seven-year-old point-to-point racehorse, was also left with a foot-long gaping wound on its leg after it bolted through a wire fence in shock after being hit by a lit lantern.
Sarah Sladen, Bastante’s owner, said it was disgusting that the lanterns were still allowed and called for a ban. “These things should be outlawed, it is as simple as that,” she said.
“The biggest problem is for the animals, because, if it falls into grass, [the lantern is] wire. Grass gets made into hay. You then end up with animals injured through eating the wire that gets into the bales of hay. It’s all of that. They should be got rid of, end of.”
The horse was seen by a vet, and is recovering.
Many have argued that the lanterns endanger wildlife, as they can cause fires, especially during hot weather.
Ruth George, MP for High Peak, had called for a lantern festival happening near her constituency in the Peak District to be cancelled over fire fears.
The event, which has since been called off, was to be held at Buxton Raceway, Derbys, on July 28, with thousands of lit lanterns to be sent into the sky over the Peak District, which has already been subject to fire warnings because of the dry conditions.
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “We welcome the decision by Buxton Raceway to cancel the Manchester/Birmingham Lights Fest at Buxton on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park, which would have put our valuable landscapes, wildlife and farming livelihoods at risk… I share the public’s frustration that the organisers did not consider the impacts of sky lanterns before planning this event so close to the UK’s first National Park, and not least in light of recent wild fire incidents.”
Mike Thomas, a spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “There is plenty of evidence that shows they can harm animals. We continue to campaign for an outright ban.”
Dr Mark Kennedy, equine specialist at the RSPCA, described the incident with Bastante as “very distressing”. He said horses can be burned by lanterns, and “further injury can be caused as they panic and attempt to escape.” He added: “Even stabled horses are at risk from these devices; the consequence of a burning lantern drifting into a stable or barn full of highly combustible straw and hay are obvious and horrifying.”