I am fortunate enough to be taking over chairmanship of the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board at a time when environmental issues are high on everybody’s agenda.
Councils have always been at the forefront of these discussions, whether it be delivering cycling lanes or introducing new recycling schemes. But it feels like we now need to be able to deliver, quicker.
In the coming year, we will be dealing with a packed environmental agenda, demonstrating local government’s leadership role. Some of the key policy areas are detailed below.
Resources and waste strategy
Earlier this year, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched three major consultations connected to the Government’s resources and waste strategy.
These addressed consistency in recycling collections, reforming the producer responsibility scheme and the introduction of deposit return schemes. Taken collectively, these represent a significant overhaul of what we recycle, how we recycle and who will pay for it. The LGA lobbied hard and effectively during the first phase of this work to ensure councils’ views were heard.
DEFRA’s second phase of consultation should take place next year. Its focus will be on calculating how much councils spend on recycling and waste services, and how much producers should pay.
Councils must know how much they are spending on these services and ensure these full costs are represented through any of the work undertaken by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) over the next few years. This could significantly impact on your future funding, so make sure your data within the WRAP modelling is accurate.
An Environment Bill has been promised to ensure that environmental ambition and accountability remain at the heart of government after Brexit. The Bill will focus on environmental governance, air quality, biodiversity, waste, and water management.
Councils will need to start thinking about what leading on environmental improvement means to them. What will it mean for you to be able to deliver enhancements to your local natural environments? What resources will this require and what skills are needed?
As the Bill progresses, the LGA will be engaging in the detail so that we can be confident that what becomes law is something on which councils can deliver.
At the LGA’s annual conference in July, a climate emergency was declared and a commitment made to supporting councils in their work to tackle climate change by providing a strong, unified voice for local government, and sharing best practice across all councils.
There was cross-party support for this declaration. To date, 230 councils in the UK have declared a climate emergency and many others have agreed measures to become carbon neutral.Following on from this, the LGA will be offering the Government a joint national taskforce between local leaders and relevant Whitehall departments to consider the most appropriate actions, funding, coordination and collaboration needed to drive the UK’s climate change agenda.
Our policy team is prepared with specific asks around transport, planning and waste. And our improvement team is planning a suite of offerings to help elected members get to grips with the details of climate change.
The coming year promises to be full of environmental action. I’m happy to hear any feedback elected members may have. Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.