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President's update: 8th April

8 April 2020

As we move into the 3rd week of lockdown across England, I have to say how proud I am of how ADEPT members and local authorities are responding to this exceptional time of crisis. Our members continue to provide the essential universal services on which we all depend, while tracking impacts and planning for the inevitable changes to provision as Covid-19 continues to take hold.

We are continuing our work with the Department for Transport and the Highways Sector Council, not only to review and report on the impacts for highways maintenance across the country but also to start planning for recovery. We are finding a distinctly mixed picture as some areas are striving to maintain business as usual, while others have reduced their output to essential and emergency maintenance only. Further communications are expected from DfT in the next few days, along with new safe operating guidance specifically written for the highways sector. We continue to collect information from local authorities on changes to highways maintenance regimes – contact the ADEPT secretariat: [email protected] if you would like to contribute.

Sadly, I think we all have examples of where our highways maintenance (and other) crews, particularly those employed by our contractors, have faced hostility from the general public. We have been working on a social media strategy to support members’ comms teams to ensure our messages about essential workers reaches into our communities and intend to roll this out from next week.

The first report from our weekly survey on recycling and waste services was published last Friday (see here). Over 200 councils responded in just two days and we thank our partners, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) for their contribution and support. We are asking local authorities to please complete this survey every week, so a reminder email should already be in your inbox.

We found that all but a few responding councils are still managing to provide collection services for domestic residual waste as normal, despite running on average at 20% fewer staff. Also, over 90% are maintaining their recycling services as normal or with only minor disruption. No councils report any significant disruption to waste disposal and treatment services such as energy from waste incineration and landfill. 

Public Rights of Way is an emerging area of concern for local authorities as, in common with parks and green spaces, there are tensions between the need for daily exercise and adherence to social distancing guidelines. The numbers of walkers on local routes at the edges of villages and towns have gone up significantly, which in some places is causing tensions with the landowning community. We are working with the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW) to collect information for Natural England and Defra on what is happening across the country. An email has gone out today to RoW officers across the country. 

Once again, I want to thank all our essential workers and partners for their hard work, support and willingness to get stuck in as we all face these most difficult of times. Stay safe everyone.