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President's Update

20 July 2020

Local government yet again finds itself facing an uncertain future with even less certain budgets. There has been much coverage of the Public Accounts Committee report which has outlined risks and issues with increasing commercial investments and borrowing across councils, and how Covid-19 has led to a shortfall in expected income. We all know that local authorities have had to increase borrowing to finance alternative income streams, but with this deficit coming alongside the pressures of necessary coronavirus spending across services, we are seeing increasing concern across local government that we are heading into a perfect storm in the Autumn.

We are facing the Recovery and Devolution White Paper, the Planning Policy Paper and the prospect of managing localised outbreaks and lockdowns. We have seen from Leicester what impacts these have on local authorities and in that case the council did not face a substantive increase in staff absence. Other outbreaks may prove more problematic. Our work measuring impacts on waste services, amongst much of our other evidence gathering, shows just how severe these impacts can be, and how long it can take services to return to something resembling normal operations.

In anticipation of the Government’s Planning Policy Paper, we hosted a planning workshop on 8th July that focused on the key themes of:

  • supporting communities to deliver more homes for local people
  • helping first time buyers onto the housing ladder
  • creating beautiful, sustainable places
  • ensuring affordable, safe, and secure housing for all
  • laying the foundations for affordable, green and beautiful homes for everyone

This is the beginning of a substantial piece of work, as we begin to formulate our position on widely trailed changes to the planning system that have significant implications for local authorities.

As lockdown lifts and our services return to more normal operation levels, our waste survey is now being undertaken every fortnight. Results for w/c 6th July reflect the lifting of restrictions with only 69% of councils operating commercial waste collections as normal and 16% reporting severe disruption. This is a significant increase on the level of disruption from the last survey and is probably a consequence of an increase in service demand. HWRC services continue to improve with 31% of councils reporting HWRCs to be operating as normal, and a further 54% reporting only minor disruption. 80% of recycling collections are operating normally alongside 85% of garden waste collections. There is still minor disruption to food waste collections, bulky waste collection, street sweeping and bring bank operations with 90% reporting normal services for fly tipping clearance.

Our policy position on active travel will be published this month, where we set out how active travel should be made a fundamental part of our transport systems.

 

You might’ve seen in our newsletter special sent out this week, that we will be hosting a special climate change webinar on 30th July (10.00 –11.30) for ADEPT members, to help shape where we go next in terms of our support offer on climate change. There will be a keynote contribution from Louise Marix Evans, who is working for the Committee on Climate Change on local government delivery of the net zero commitment, a short briefing from one of the partners behind the partnership report Blueprint accelerating climate action and green recovery at the local level  that we published on 24th June, and an update on ADEPT’s climate change work programme. Anyone interested in taking part in the webinar should email Hannah Bartram ([email protected]) to register.

 

Also, as part of ADEPT's ongoing relationship with EY, they have shared their Future Consumer Index which tracks changing consumer sentiment and behaviours, giving a unique perspective on which changes are temporary reactions to the Covid-19 crisis, which point to more fundamental shifts, and what the consumer post Covid-19 might be like.

 

And finally, within the next five years, 24 LHAs will be coming to the end of their current highway delivery arrangements. Seven of these authorities commissioned Proving Services to undertake a review of the marketplace, evaluate future service delivery options and better understand how authorities and their partners can improve contractual and collaborative relationships to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes.

 

For a copy of Proving’s review or the EY document, please contact Hannah. As always, keep watching our COVID-19 updates page for latest ADEPT news.