Examination of witnesses (Questions 540
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
EASTEAL and MR
540. The LGA always say there is not enough
money, however the local authorities always muddle through.
(Mr Toombs) The local authorities are very inventive
and very enthusiastic. Going back to the point about implementation,
there are a variety of initiatives that we are involved with,
particularly in the exchange of best practice and such like. Our
sister organisation, the Improvement and Development Agency, of
course, have been involved in work in forming a database of good
practice that local authorities can tap into and exchange information.
We are also looking to set up a best value waste network jointly
with the Department of the Environment very shortly. There will
be the launch of that, which is aimed particularly at overcoming
the need to work jointly both between different types of authorities
and the private and voluntary sectors. The network will be launched
on 12th December and it will encourage people to disseminate good
541. Can you give us one example of where it
has really been done outstandingly well in this country?
(Mr Toombs) Sustainable integrated waste management.
We always hesitate because we seem to come up with the same sort
of answers, quite often we cite Project Integra in Hampshire.
I know there is a lot of work going on in Hampshire at the moment
to move to the next stage, through the evolution of their joint
waste strategy. Perhaps it would be appropriate for Bob Lisney
to say a few words on that.
(Mr Lisney) The Project Integra has achieved the government
target of 25 per cent recovery, that is for a population of 1.5
million and it has kerb-side collections for 85 per cent of the
population. It does have 13 local authorities, which is eleven
districts and waste collection authorities and two unitaries.
The County Council are working together in conjunction with the
private sector contractor, the main contractor and other contractors
as well. We also said that we would like to think that our partnership
is partly in conjunction with the community. It has been very
much a decade worth of discussion and engagement in the community
and a gradual implementation over that period of time. The total
infrastructure will be an integrated waste management system,
because that was what was initially planned way back in the early
1990s and will be in place by 2003, it has taken that long to
put in place. That should recover 40 per cent material recycling,
that includes composting, 45 per cent energy recovery by incineration,
and the residual should be taken up with anaerobic digestion and
a very small amount to be landfill. The future direction we are
taking is to move to a more formalised management arrangement
of a joint board to run the organisation, which is now quite mature,
leaving a major focus on waste minimisation and recovery. As we
get more and more materials from the domestic waste stream we
see quite a lot of synergies, when what we can also do as a local
authority is not just have a waste disposal authority but through
the area of economic development create a wider supply and demand
link with the materials generally.
542. Most of the authorities are talking about
up to three per cent growth in waste per year. Presumably Hampshire
being so successful is talking about a reduction in the amount
of waste generated from house waste.
(Mr Lisney) The figures for the last twelve months
are slightly less than three per cent. We have been experiencing
variable changes in the last five years, some of them are as a
result of making the access easier from a household waste recycling
centre and indeed kerb-side collections. We are getting a lot
more information, which is also something that we need in waste
management, about the behaviour of people, the different demographics
and social mixes, even the physical infrastructure all have a
major impact on how waste comes out of that stream. In minimisation
terms, it is very difficult to call. We would have to spend a
fair amount of time in educational awareness, it is a difficult
call and our growth has been less than the country's average growth,
but only marginally.
543. The Local Government Association's written
evidence says there is a need for brave national leadership. Could
you give me some examples of what such leadership would do?
(Mr Toombs) When we wrote that we were very mindful
of the difficulties that are presented by some of the planning
permissions that are required for things like incineration, material
for recycling facilities, composting plants and that they all
involve a degree of concern to the public, of course, from the
point of nuisance or discharge, health effects or general disturbance
to the local amenity. We felt that local councillors are placed
in a somewhat invidious position in trying to determine where
facilities should be placed. We felt that maybe it was appropriate
to take, in some ways, a more strategic, co-ordinated view, if
you like, across the country of, perhaps, how the distribution
of those facilities should take place. It should not be prescribed
but there should be some general awareness of where waste arisings
were, the nature of the waste and where current reprocessing facilities
and waste management facilities existed. We were looking originally
for some information to come from the Environment Agency on this.
We are helped a bit by the new Strategic Waste Management Assessments,
which they will be producing very shortly, which will give us
a better idea of waste arising and the facilities available to
deal with that.
544. I am not clear what you are advocating,
are you saying that there should be central decisions on planning
in these contentious areas?
(Mr Toombs) I think it would be too much to go that
545. How far are you going?
(Mr Toombs) What we are really saying is, if we look
at incineration, we know it is highly contentious. Different people
claim different things. We felt that it would be useful to have
some unbiased, if possible, information in the public arena to
assist the public to determine whether they agree with, or otherwise,
a certain route for waste management. At one stage I believe there
was, for instance, some sort of publication that the Department
of Environment produced on incineration generally a few years
ago, which now has gone out of print. We wonder whether something
of that nature might assist the public generally in trying to
determine whether, in fact, this is just scare-mongering or whether
there is real harm.
546. Are you talking about information problems,
not decision problems.
(Mr Toombs) Not so much decision.
547. Just say yes or no. Are you saying a decision
from Government or not?
(Mr Toombs) We are not looking for a decision from
Government as such.
548. That is a contradiction. You say that the
stress is too great for the local councils. This is not a vote
winner, and everyone understands that. Somebody else has to take
the decision but you say, we would not expect it to be taken by
anybody else. Somewhere along the line there has to be a solution
(Mr Toombs) What we looking for is an input to the
debate, some, as I say, hopefully unbiased information that can
549. Do you seriously think that people decide
their attitude to incineration is on the basis of the quality
of the unbiased information they are given?
(Mr Toombs) Not necessarily. That does not mean to
550. Being in the local authority a long time
you will know it is on the fact they do not want an incinerator.
(Mr Toombs) That is what we are trying to deal with
after all. How do you change those opinions?
551. We are not saying we ask somebody else
at regional level to say, "Nevertheless, because we have
told you and explained to you in simple words that this will not
be a hazard you now must accept an incinerator".
(Mr Toombs) I am trying to put things into context
552. You have had many years of training in
local authority, that will not do. If the local authority does
not take the decision on where the incinerator goes, who does?
(Mr Toombs) Presumably the Inspector, if there is
553. We are assuming that every incinerator
will only be decided at considerable cost to the rate payer by
a public inquiry?
(Mr Toombs) Not necessarily. I think there is a route
open to us which we should try to pursue, and that is by involving
the community much more in the decision-making process.
554. If they are not influenced by having it
explained to them, but still hold to their basic prejudices who
takes the decision?
(Mr Toombs) The local authority in the first instance
will take the decision. Of course, as we have heard, if it is
highly contentious it may go to appeal. We have heard something
about that in terms of the plan for Essex.
(Mr Easteal) I would like to be more positive.
555. You would like to have an incinerator at
the bottom of your garden?
(Mr Easteal) No, I would not. What I would say is
556. I say that half jokingly, is that issue
not the serious point, if the leader of the council or the chief
executive of the council was to say, "I am quite happy to
have an incinerator at the bottom of my garden", then public
perception would change.
(Mr Easteal) I was brought up opposite a gas works
when gas works put out rather nasty boiled egg smells. I have
had my fill of that. What I was going to say was, I am not advocating
incinerators for one moment. After all, the whole process we are
going through in Essex, in terms of the high diversion trials,
are intended, at least in part to tell the public, "Look
can we manage without incineration or not?" I would like
to think that this processif there ever was an incinerator
in Essex we are at least four or five years away from the planning
of it, let alone the building of itwe are going through
would enable the councils, not all of them, to take a sensible
decision about it. People are very sophisticated out there and
they are not prepared to be bounced into things on incinerators
or an awful lot of other things we have to have planning permission
557. Do you think in the end the people in Chelmsford
could be persuaded to take an incinerator?
(Mr Easteal) I think the arguments are now being laid
out that if that was the end it would certainly get a reasonable
hearing. I think it is most unlikelyone deals with appeals
all of the timeyou would ever get an incinerator agreed
without an appeal to the inspectorate. Good heavens, that happens
for five houses at the back of somebody's garden. There are inspectorate
appeals going on in Chelmsford Civic Centre every week. I cannot
believe that something like this would actually be decided in
the end without there being an appeal of that kind. Hopefully
it would be on the basis that the information is there. There
are some places that are more suitable for incinerators than for
others. We are in discussions at the moment about one that is
certainly within the Borough of Chelmsford.
Mr Brake: Mr Toombs, if you are short of examples
of good practice in relation to Waste Management, can I recommend
my own local borough, the London Borough of Sutton, who are on
target for a 50 per cent recycling rate, using the alternative
weekly collections that Mr Easteal has referred to.
Mrs Dunwoody: Break for the commercial.
558. The 35 million you referred to in terms
of capital costs for your programme, where is the bulk of that
(Mr Easteal) The bulk of it is on vehicles and bins.
559. It would be the vehicles and bins that
are required for the alternative weekly collection. Mr Tuthill,
what is your recycling and composting target? What do you expect
to achieve on the national target that has been set for your authority?
(Mr Tuthill) The national target takes on board the
recycling done by the districts. I have to say I am not terribly
happy with what is being suggested for the targets for different
authorities, and how one depends on another and does not reflect
the true performance of that authority. What I can say is that
the target for Essex is 33 per cent. Obviously it is easier for
us to recycle the material that goes through the civic community
sites. We have now lifted that dramatically, we are nearly at
60 per cent. We are probably talking about a county-wide average
of about 20 per cent, maybe marginally over.