A while back, I wrote a very dismissive comment regarding waste management and recycling. It was along the lines of “Ëœme and my wife take recycling very seriously, but to be honest, I don’t care what the Council do with my rubbish once they have collected it’. I know now that I was very, very wrong to say this.
Over the past year or so, Pits n Pots have been urged to investigate Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s decision to move to the present method of Waste Management including Recycling.
We have stumbled along, asking here and there. We have read the Freedom of Information requests from Ian Norris and others and we could sense the frustration at the lack of information coming forward from the council.
Our interest was pricked further when a contributor wrote this comment article.
We thought that the claim in the article that the enhanced recycling scheme has incurred £3.49million of cost not budgeted for warranted further investigation so we requested an interview with head of Environmental Services Jane Forshaw which can be heard here.
Now if you listen to the audio clip at the bottom of this article you will clearly hear Jane Forshaw agree to answer any follow up questions that may arise out of her interview. “Just come back and talk to us” she said.
She also said that questions that are asked through Freedom of Information tend to be one dimensional and as a result receive one dimensional answers.
Pits n Pots as requested, submitted the following supplementary questions, expecting Jane Forshaw to keep to her word and offer detailed answers:
1 Why was a ‘collection only’ remit given to WRAP [their report dated 4/3/08 ref ROT019] and not ‘collection and disposal’
2] Is the remit given to WRAP the reason that, in Jane’s view, it was flawed?
3] The report gave various solutions, one of which was option j. This option recommended a solution based on collection and disposal close to the process adopted by NBC who are now achieving a recycling rate of 50% as opposed to our current rate of 40%. were all the options put forward to the EMB, the rest of the elected members, or appropriate overview and scrutiny committee, for consideration?
4] In the absence of any EMB/Councillor involvement, who took the decision to adopt the current enhanced system of recycling?
5] The composting was put out for tender twice, the first time the tender was pulled, why was this?
6] Can we have the exact date that the ‘blue’ bins were ordered?
7] Was this date before the EMB gave its approval for the scheme?
8] Did the NSRP commission an Independent report into suitable composting sites in the City of Stoke-on-Trent?
9] Was this report taken into consideration before placing
the contract with a company from outside of the area?
10] Our current system for collecting food waste means that only potentially only 50% is collected. [once fortnightly in brown bin] That 50% potential success rate will be further affect by the number of households that do not have the 3 bin system. Will this prevent the city achieving the government target of 45% for 2015 and the 50% target for 2020?
Imagine our surprise when we received the following email fro Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Press & Communication Department in response to our request.
On returning to this and given the extensive detail of
your questions I am inclined to recommend you forward it as an FOI.
It is beyond a standard media enquiry now and beyond our resources here to keep chasing it. Happy to forward this for you or if you want to take time and consider the parameters of your questions you may want to submit it direct to the Councils FOI team.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful but we do sometimes have to prioritise resources and make decisions on what the press team deal with and what departments deal with through FOI route.
So, what exactly have our City Council got to hide?
I have spoken to numerous verifiable sources over recent days, elected members, former elected members, the great and the good and a picture is starting to form.
I suspect that the smoke screen that now clouds this whole issue is all a cover up.
My sources lead me to believe that there was absolutely NO elected member involvement in the decision to move to the current enhanced recycling method.
One source tells of an EMB meeting where the then interim Council Manager demanded that members of the EMB nod this policy through.
The EMB refused due to the lack of substance to the report. There was absolutely no detail or information put before members so that they could make an informed decision on this matter. There was quite a heated row over the issue.
The Interim Council Manager stormed out of the meeting threatening to “Ëœcall the government for intervention’ allegedly.
To my knowledge this was never put before that particular EMB again.
There was a WRAP Report commissioned by the Council [WRAP ref ROT019 dated 04/03/08]. It was never produced to an EMB, elected councillors, the relevant Overview & Scrutiny Committee. Indeed I suspect that the Portfolio Holder at the time did not know about the WRAP report.
The remit of the WRAP report was Collection Cost only, in other words the “Ëœcheap as chips’ option.
Now, I have seen this report and it gives various options and states that on a cost only basis the method that we eventually opted for.
One of the other options [J in the WRAP report] This option recommended a solution close to the process adopted by NBC who are now achieving a recycling rate of 50% as opposed to our current rate of 40%.
My sources tell me that the WRAP report was withheld from all Elected Members therefore non of the options were put forward to the EMB, the rest of the elected members, or appropriate overview and scrutiny committee, for consideration.
I have also been told by a number of sources that the blue bins were purchased before the results of the trials were known.
Our Councillors are often attacked for their actions and performance and are often described as being poor quality.
On this issue however, no one can or should accuse our councillors of not scrutinising and considering all options to find the appropriate system of dealing with our cities waste recyclables. A system that will not just achieve the current government target of 40%, but a system that will ensure that we hit the future targets of 45%  and 50% .
Had our councillors had the WRAP report issued to them they may well have chosen Option J which may have helped our council achieve their 2020 target now, just like Newcastle Borough.
This whole issue needs further investigation and the Council have to start giving out some conclusive answers to some very pertinent questions.
I strongly suspect that an officer or executive of the council took decision and made sure that there was no elected member involvement.
If future government targets are not achieved, I wonder who will get all the criticism. My Guess? Our councillors.
I urge all elected members to back the calls for the District Auditor to look into this issue in its entirety. Wrap report, tenders, blue bins, the whole sorry affair.