Waste Management

Now into the third month of its new administration, Flintshire councillors are coming to terms with lots more training and looking warily at the 5“elephants on the doorstep of most county councils, certainly this one. At a full training day in Llandudno on 11th July, the best speaker, a Daniel Hurford believed waste management, affordable housing, social services school places and climate change were just some of the more pressing issues we must address urgently. He added another which worried him even more; our aging profile with the number of people over 55 escalating rapidly and an eight billion funding gap in Social Services budgets. To make the point, he described how the Queen’s Birthday telegrams had risen from 255 to 7000 in a few short years. The cost of recycling waste will soon rise dramatically and councils were facing a double whammy as charges imposed by Europe were beginning to bite and national targets to recycle more and landfill less were now close and stringent. He assessed that in the next four years, the need for new affordable housing ranged from 6500 to 14000 houses and also re-possessions were up by 26%. In my opinion, the most unsatisfactory speaker, was a WAG official. He had never inspired me when I had had dealings with him at the Assembly. I found his presentation rather patronising. He suggested that:
“councillors had huge potential to change service delivery and unlock scope for partnership even though the credit crunch and pay pressures were really going to make budgets squeal”.
He spoke of the need to test the relationship with WAG and Local Authorities and focus of improving public services. What the real message was:
‘that WAG is giving less away, Local Authorities are in for a very rough ride and councillors are expected to work miracles and cope with frugal Assembly handouts, yet still maintain services.
On the bus back to Flintshire, the general opinion was that the day could have been better spent. WAG official’s pontificating still rumbling in my mind when I read an item under “Bonuses condemned” in 25th July Chester Chronicle by Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Delyn, (my former constituency): Antoinette Sandbach. She slammed the 154% increase for Welsh Assembly civil servants bonuses and stated that more than £680,000 had been pocketed by WAG officials. How nice if I had the time to determine if the bumptious official had claimed a bonus. Surely not! Only two days before the seaside Training Session, the “Waste Disposal Elephant” had roared into the Communities Housing and Waste Scrutiny meeting at County Hall. Quoting from a Council report dated February 2008, I asked if the proposed time scale of April 2013 for a Waste on-stream facility in the county, (contracts to be awarded April 210), was fast enough when contrasted with ever closer and costlier infractions penalties. (The more we dump the more we pay). Showing off my well informed “clever clogs” preparation, I threw in some statistics from this official report. Amazingly, my remark about the worrying infraction penalties was quickly pounced on as ‘a red herring’ by a leading councillor on the Executive. I then witnessed a real spat between the “red herring” councillor and two of the former Administration’s heavyweight Executive members. The Labour councillors were furious that these very real and very punitive costs were being played down. ‘Councillor Alison Halford is absolutely right’ and shame on the complacency of the opposing councillor. Tempers cooled and officials confirmed that Flintshire was actively seeking solutions, that the problem was serious and the county had run out of land fill sites. A previous appointment made me late for the meeting when the costs of handling Flintshire waste may have been discussed. However later in the day, the Flintshire Leader revealed the stark truth. ‘£4 million is the cost of taking our rubbish elsewhere’! I wondered why the former Executive, that had been in power since 1995 had done so little to progress the rubbish dilemma? As two had spiritedly attacked the councillor for playing down the problem, they knew it was a pressing issue that should have been addressed. Could they have done more in twelve years in Government? The Jury is still out on this thorny issue. I am concerned that this new Coalition Administration will end before we have a fully operating mechanism for disposing of more of our waste. I hope that the Coalition Government, of which my Party is party too, learns from lessons of the past! We are all already paying to manage our waste. We must be responsible to take recycling seriously. FCC can’t do it on its own alone, it’s a team effort.

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