Examination of witnesses (Questions 521
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
EASTEAL and MR
521. Can I welcome you to the last session this
morning. Can I ask you to identify yourselves for the record.
(Mr Easteal) I am Arthur Easteal, I am the Chief Executive
of Chelmsford Borough Council. I am not an expert on waste but
for some reason or another I am also the Honourary Secretary of
both the Consortium of Waste Collection Authorities in Essex and
the Secretary of the Waste Management Advisory Board of Essex
and Southend, which brings together representatives of the districts
of Essex County Council and Southend Borough Council as its unitary
(Mr Tuthill) David Tuthill, Waste Manager, Essex County
(Mr Toombs) Peter Toombs, from the Local Government
Association, Policy Officer on Waste and Environmental Management.
(Mr Lisney) Bob Lisney, Senior Adviser for the Local
Government Association working for Hampshire County Council.
Chairman: If you agree with each other there
is no need for you to repeat yourselves. If you disagree chip
in very quickly.
522. Mr Easteal, could you describe the recent
development of waste policies in Essex and how you see this developing
in the future?
(Mr Easteal) I will do my best, certainly. The fact
is that over the last two and a half years in Essex we have had
the most fantastic debate about the future of the Waste Management
Policy in the county. This was engendered by the publication of
the draft Waste Local Plan for Essex and Southend, which received
a great deal of comment and criticism in the community generally.
Indeed, in terms of objections I believe that that particular
plan raised more objections from members of the public than any
523. How many?
(Mr Easteal) Over 10,000. The objections were concentrated
in two areas. One was, was the policy being set out there one
which the community at large wished to see pursued, and secondly,
let us not be bashful about this, eight major management sites
were identified in that plan and, rightly or wrongly, local people
thought that that was where an incinerator was likely to be placed.
For perfectly understandable reasons it did give rise to a great
deal of comment. The District Councils in Essex, which is a collection
of authorities, and also, of course, development control planning
authorities, also took issue with many aspects of the plan, and
that is how the consortium of district councils were set up and
we asked consultants to look at this for us. In fact, as I said
to start off with, there has been more debate in the county about
this subject then I ever rememberI am afraid I have to
admit I am an Essex man born and bred.
524. The consultants looked at this for you
and those proposals from that research were fed into, were they
not, the Waste Development Authority at a certain point in the
strategy and in the plan. What happened then? You see, I am not
sure where we are now.
(Mr Easteal) Am I taking too long to get to where
we are now? What has happened to the consortium? When we got to
the public inquiry there was a wide measure of agreement as a
result of discussions between us. The inspector's report that
has been issued subsequently I think, generally speaking, provides
in planning terms a fair basis for taking forward a waste management
strategy in Essex. Although there are some issues in it that are
still outstanding there are those issues the consortium will continue
to meet. In the last six months we have established, sorry to
sound bureaucratic, this Waste Management Advisory Board, bringing
together all of the councils concerned and it is that Board which
is now taking forward a strategy. There is a very wide measure
of agreement. We have a joint strategy called the Working Together
Document, that was agreed last year, which sets out some objectives
for us to meet in terms of reduction, and recycling and other
matters. There are high diversion trials underway currently in
two parts of the county which are specifically to see whether
the kind of recycling targets that we have are actually practically
achievable or not.
525. Do you have any further input into the
Essex waste plan now? It is very nearly at the end of the road
(Mr Easteal) It is, indeed. The County Council will
526. I do not care what the County Council do,
does the consortium have any further pressures on that? Does it
accept the inspector's recommendations?
(Mr Easteal) We accept, I should think, 95 per cent
of the inspector's recommendations, on the other 5 per cent we
have made our comments to the County Council already and we have
another opportunity to do so when the County Council's proposed
modifications are placed on public deposit, which we understand
will happen around the turn of the year.
527. Mr Tuthill, do you feel at one now with
(Mr Tuthill) I think there is a convergence of views.
528. Right. What are the most significant barriers
that you face in implementing local strategies?
(Mr Tuthill) Poor market for recyclable material,
lack of funding to make the investment in the additional infrastructure
that is required to have higher recycling, high composting, generally
processing waste. Indeed, the revenue budget that will be needed
to sustain those schemes.
529. Do you think there has been an unfortunate
bias in previous waste strategies coming from central Government
inasmuch as there have been subsidies and fiscal incentives to
go down the route of municipal waste for incineration but nothing
much coming forward, until recently, to do with waste separation
at the waste collection end of it? Do you think that more movement
is needed there and, if so, can you put a figure on it? What does
waste collection need to actually separate out these waste streams?
(Mr Easteal) We need money more. We do not need more
530. How much more money?
(Mr Easteal) So far as the districts are concerned
we look at this extremely closely and we have looked in detail
at individual district plans. Over a five year period our estimate
is that we need 35 million in capital and five million in revenue.
531. Let us finish this now because we need
to move on.
(Mr Easteal) 35 million in capital and five million
in revenue. If I may continue for one moment, the important thing
about that is it is essentially transitional. What we have to
do in terms of waste collection is to make a step-change from
what is still primarily, not totally, a traditional method of
collection to one that allows us to have kerb-side collection.
With that kind of money we can do that. As far as most of the
waste collection authorities in Essex are concerned, my own authority
included, one can see a position over the end of a four or five
year period where you are still having much the same revenue costs
as we do now. What we are talking about is having a collection
every other week of recyclables and putrycables so that everyone
will still have one collection a week, so the main charge will
be the same. What we need help on is to get us from one method
of collection to another.
532. To follow up both those issues, what proportion
of the 1.1 million provided to local authorities for environmental,
protective and cultural services, including waste, will actually
be spent on waste management; of the 1.1 million announced in
the Comprehensive Spending Review?
(Mr Easteal) That covers all the expenditure of district
councils. If you take my case as an example, we have been safety-netting
for the last three years, we have not had any real increase. My
councillors will do their best to see that priority is given to
waste management. There is a very significant number of other
things that we deal with which also need that money. We shall
certainly do our best to see that the increase that has been made
is passed through to change this collection method, as I have
described it, because it is a political priority for councils
in Essex so to do.
533. Is there going to be enough money to achieve
this step-change you need to take?
(Mr Easteal) Not at the moment, no.
534. How much of the step-change in the public's
attitude to waste collection, because the public have a very important
role to play here, is being helped in Essex by the fact that your
draft waste local plan, which named eight sites, was then described
as shadow planning, and that the population around those sites
has been mobilised to achieve targets of recycling ahead of anybody
else in the country? How important is that shadow planning, if
I can call it that, or that draft waste local plan in initiating
this debate and convincing the public of the requirements for
them to act?
(Mr Easteal) It has been incredibly important in having
a debate in putting waste management and the future of waste management
almost at the top, if not at the top of the political as well
as the administrative agenda. It has been tremendously important.
I would just like to say, from where I sit we are pretty good
with the technical answers, I can tell you how many lorries and
that kind of business, however winning the hearts and minds of
people is tremendously important. That is why more money probably
needs to be spent. The question I am asked more frequently than
anything else is, "Why are we not having a recycling collection
in my street?" In Chelmsford and in other places people do
have a large plastic bin, to which they are rather wedded.
535. Given the experience you had in Essex,
do you think it would be sensible for all local authorities to
shadow-plan for an incineration facility, in case it is needed,
whilst attempting to press ahead with a recycling and composting
strategy at the same time?
(Mr Easteal) I think legally we are really required
to do so and that was, at least, in part what the County Council
was doing in its plan in Southend. There is not any doubt, at
least in our part of the country, that the threat, if I may put
it like that, of the incinerator has concentrated people's minds.
So far as the Waste Management Advisory Board for Essex is concerned
I think all the politicians are agreed that they do not want an
incinerator. That has given a very welcome added boost to all
of these other things we are now trying to do.
536. Finally on this issue of incinerators,
there is a range in public subsidies for incinerators from NFFO'S
to private finance initiatives and exemption from the Climate
Change Levy. How much is that driving the county council, in your
judgment, towards an incineration strategy, based on the economic
imperative as far as your rate payers are concerned?
(Mr Tuthill) Because of the number of subsidies which
have in the past brought down the gate fees of incinerators the
industry has the view now that the level at which they have to
bid is now so low that it is a commercial enterprise and the number
of subsidies could disappear without affecting the market. In
terms of PFI, PFI is available to all capital investment in respect
of waste. Obviously if incinerators were built that would be the
largest piece of capital investment, but equally sophisticated
composting recycling plants, anaerobic digesters, that everyone
looks at, requires capital investment, for which PFI subsidy would
be extremely useful. In Essex alone I estimate that the capital
requirement could be of the order of £150 million, which
compares with a nationally available figure of some £70 million
to £100 million per year. It would be very welcome, but the
likelihood of getting adequate PFI funding is quite small and
it certainly does not influence our thinking.
537. To the Local Government Association, what
would you say are the key strengths and weaknesses of the Government's
(Mr Lisney) There is no doubt there is quite considerable
strength in the fact that we have an integrated waste strategy.
It is a pity it has to be called waste strategy, because there
should be a presumption that it is a resource and waste strategy,
perhaps the primacy on the resource side. It is certainly comprehensive
and covers all waste, and in that sense it meets the EU Directive
for Waste Planning. It does focus a lot on recovery and looks
at the roles of all sectors, and those are quite considerable
strengths. It is probably also linked to the sustainable development
trail, because an awful lot of what has to be dealt with under
the concept of waste and recovery is interlinked with other areas,
like transport and general sustainability issues. Those are good
strengths. On weaknesses we could probably say it was shorter
on the behaviour and social society stages of implementation.
One of the issues that we looked at in terms of other countries
is how long it takes them to achieve high levels of resource recovery
and infrastructure. It is generally quite a long time. Canada
has taken 20 years to get where it is, for example. In those areas,
without wide support for the national waste awareness initiative
that is the sort of thing that might underpin some of the collective
behaviour changes that are going to be needed, certainly from
now on and certainly within the next five years. We have a much
shorter period of time to implement the strategy. We think that
is a weakness. You have been talking about money, clearly money
is going to be needed as well.
538. What is the LGA doing to ensure there is
implementation of the scheme?
(Mr Toombs) That there is full implementation?
(Mr Toombs) Can I first mention on the funding, this
question was asked a bit earlier, the question about whether there
are sufficient funds? Under the EPSC block that is much more than
just waste management. The actual agreed sum for the three year
period forms not much more than about a third of what the LGA
calculated was appropriate for that block. The point that was
made beyond that was that individual authorities have the discretion
to determine how that money is then spent.