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President update: 31st March

31 March 2021

This week we begin our path out of lockdown, with people being able to meet up with other households within existing guidelines. With some welcome sunshine and the clocks going forward, there is a sense of relief in the country, albeit with some wariness about how Europe’s third wave might affect the UK.

The Digital and Connectivity Working Group has welcomed a new interim Chair, Ceren Clulow, and I would also like to thank her predecessor, Nicola McCoy Brown, for all her work in setting up and establishing this busy group. The group has been working with BDUK to ensure the extent of work undertaken by local authorities in this area is understood, and to provide constructive feedback on the development of the UK Gigabit Broadband programme – ‘Project Gigabit’. The group is also examining the impacts for local authorities of misinformation around 5G, as well as participating in roundtable discussions with Mobile UK on the Shared Rural Network. Covid-19 has highlighted just how important affordable access to digital infrastructure is for our communities. The work will lead to a refreshed Digital Policy Position paper later in the year. The current paper can be found here.

The 20th ADEPT waste survey for w/c 15th March has been published. The pressure on Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) continues, due to social distancing and the beginning of what is traditionally their busiest time of the year. Only 24% of responding local authorities reported HWRCs as operating normally. The good news is the ongoing improvements in core collection services. 78% of household waste collections (up from 71% in the previous survey) and 76% (69%) of recycling collections are operating normally, with 76% (65%) of food waste collections and 83% (74%) of garden waste collections also reporting no disruption. 90% of fly-tipping services are operating normally. As we are beginning to come out of lockdown, this will be the last waste survey, but we will continue to monitor the situation through the ADEPT Waste Group. The press release is here.

Also on waste, we are working on ADEPT’s response to the new Defra consultations – Packaging and packaging waste: introducing Extended Producer Responsibility and Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These will run till 4th June, so it’s going to be a busy spring. 

We will shortly publish our 3rd Public Rights of Way survey. Early indications show a concerning backlog of maintenance due to increased use of the network, budget pressures. I would like to thank Paul Newark, who is stepping down as Chair of our Public Rights of Way Group and welcome Shona Butter, who is taking on the role. I’d also like to take the opportunity to welcome Ian Thompson as the new Chair of the Sustainable Growth Board and thank Immediate Past President Darryl Eyers for holding the fort since rejuvenating the board last summer. The Board’s work this year will focus on housing, growth, high street, skills and Covid recovery. In addition, the North West Board held its inaugural meeting whilst we hosted a climate change webinar in Yorkshire & Humber region. 

The Future Highways Research Group run in conjunction with Proving Services continues to go from strength to strength. You’ll have the opportunity to find out more at the Highways Innovation webinar on 22nd April. To register for this free event, please email Helen on [email protected].  

The Live Labs programme has just published its second white Paper, Digital Innovation in Local Roads, which examines the impact of digital technology from data-gathering through sensors and drones, to the creation of central platforms to enable automated decision making. Neil Gibson, former President of ADEPT and Chair of the Live Labs Commissioning Board, has provided the latest blog, where he asks, Is it time to look at local government in a new light?

Finally, remember to book a place on our virtual Spring Seminar, Reimagining places: a focus on town centres & high streets, on the 27th May (all the speakers are now confirmed), which will be followed by the Annual Presidents Awards. This year’s categories are Delivering Clean Growth (sponsored by WSP), Digital Innovation/Technology (sponsored by Ringway) and Shaping Places for People. As we can’t meet in person, we have some real surprises lined up, so find out more and download your entry form here.

 As always, keep watching our COVID-19 updates page for the latest news. I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend, and manage to take some time off to recharge the batteries. Stay safe everyone.