RWM ambassador and chief executive of LARAC, Lee Marshall, expects the repercussions of Brexit to play a big part in this year’s RWM event. Will we see a prolonged period of austerity for local authorities? Who knows, but Lee knows the best place to discuss it…
I think there was a character in a Terry Pratchett book that said “…may you live in interesting times”. I don’t recall the plot but I am fairly certain it did not involve a seismic shift in trading and political arrangements with our nearest neighbours and more domestic political upheaval than a country had ever seen!
I am sure there are plenty of us in the industry at the moment that would settle for living in “slightly curious” times instead. By the time RWM comes around, some of the dust may well have settled yet there will still be lots of uncertainty remaining.
The RWM show is likely to have an even bigger buzz around the stands this year as we chat and ponder informally what it all means for waste and resources. No doubt the organisers are furiously reforming the seminar sessions so that the issues, thoughts and worries can be aired on a more formal footing. Plenty more reasons than normal to get along to the NEC this year for RWM then.
What conclusions can we draw for the moment though, from the referendum vote? Well probably not much. For the private companies amongst you I am sure you are looking at the risks to your current business model and the opportunities it may create, whether that is through your existing systems or through a revised or even completely new business model.
Those involved in imports and exports will be grappling or rejoicing with the fluctuating currency markets and the effects on your cost base and supply chain. I am sure there are emerging implications for the flow of the materials we extract from households and businesses across the UK as well.
Business As Usual… Almost
At the moment, for local authorities, it is almost business as usual. The waste and recycling collections from households still need to be undertaken and given that the policy area was fairly thin on household waste anyway the uncertainty is not exactly a new thing. We are not kidding ourselves that this means change won’t be coming at some point and there is likely to be clarity on the finances before the targets.
At the moment, for local authorities, it is almost business as usual. The waste and recycling collections from households still need to be undertaken and given that the policy area was fairly thin on household waste anyway the uncertainty is not exactly a new thing
The Chancellor has already said that the vote means the targets he was working to for overturning the deficit are gone and will need to be reframed. There has also been talk of the period of austerity being longer than was planned. Local authorities have had funding cut severely so far and so a longer period of cuts is not something we want to hear.
However, it is not clear if that means more cuts over a longer period of similar cuts over a longer period. If it is the later then that means the pain is more gradual and more manageable for local authorities. If the later then that only compounds the pressure on services and moral within local authorities.
On the horizon is the target for household waste; not an issue for Welsh and Scottish authorities, but a potential change for England. Will the 50% target by 2020 be kept and, if so, on what basis? And given the mumblings were that Defra was not behind the 65% target in the Circular Economy Package, what are any future targets likely to look like?
Lots of us have opinions on that and, no doubt, they will be shared widely and loudly at RWM. As an industry we may not get total agreement and we have to accept that possibility, but at least I look forward to an informed, balanced and polite debate about it, which is more than we have had in recent months.