The great plastic waste con (that we all pay for)

“The first council in the UK has said it is planning to tell residents to stop recycling mixed plastic, sparking fears that years of progress on reducing black bag waste is on the verge of going into reverse.

It comes as the Environment Agency is understood to be investigating the plastics recycling industry over claims that millions of tonnes of plastic is never actually recycled, meaning consumers may have been wasting time separating plastic waste.

Plastic recycling waste has been building up in the UK since China stopped importing it last year, with the situation now so bad that councils have now started cutting plastic recycling services.

Swindon has said it wants households to put mixed plastic items, such as yogurt pots and plastic trays, in the bin with regular waste.

Instead of recycling it is proposing to incinerate it along with other household rubbish. The Environment Agency is said to be investigating claims that plastic meant for recycling is being left to leak into rivers and oceans.

The problem has led to Basingstoke Borough Council taking the decision yesterday to close all 29 of its mixed plastic “bring banks”.

And in Southampton, plastic left over in the bins will be removed in the next two weeks and incinerated to generate energy for the National Grid.

Geoff Quayle, sales director of Printwaste Recycling and Shredding which provides 19 banks to Southampton City Council and 29 to Basingstoke and Dean as well as other local authorities, said the company has already stockpiled around 40 tonnes of plastic since July.

… Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We can’t burn our way out of the plastic pollution crisis.

“Incinerators belch polluting, poisonous fumes and ash into the atmosphere. “The ultimate solution is to avoid the use of unnecessary plastics in the first place. This is why we’re campaigning for legislation to end the use of all but the most essential plastics.”

Not a good time for MPs with Middle East ties – but Conservatives Middle East Council thinks it is a “brand issue”

It’s hard to criticise a country on which our arms dealers are so dependent.

See here what the Conservatives Middle East Council (Chairman, Hugo Swire) thinks of “brand Saudi”

“Firstly, it needs to be said that Saudi Arabia will survive this crisis. Global politics are as they are, and the world will not stop buying Saudi oil, nor will Western nations abandon their decades old defence relationships with the Kingdom. Riyadh will not be any less secure as a result of the crisis, and with oil approaching $100 a barrel Saudi coffers will not be too adversely hit.

….. Whether Saudis want to admit it or not, the allegations of an horrific death of a journalist in a Saudi Consulate have resulted in the Crown Prince’s reputation taking a battering. Private sector companies have fled from the Davos in Desert conference scheduled to take place in late October. Ministers from foreign governments may still turn up, the cost of losing Saudi Arabia is too high. But the Ubers and JP Morgans of the world have calculated that the cost of being currently associated with brand MbS is higher than the cost of losing out on taking a slice of Saudi Arabia’s economy.

Like all brands, brand MbS might be able to resurrect itself, but it will take time. …..”

Here is what the Daily Mail has to say

“Crisis-torn Saudi Arabia has been lavishing hundreds of thousands of pounds on British MPs, the Mail can reveal.

The kingdom – under fire over the suspected state-sponsored murder of a journalist – has been pouring cash into a charm offensive.

In just two years it has tripled the amount of money spent on MPs to pay for luxury hotels, business-class flights and magnificent feasts.

Campaigners say 38 MPs who got freebies over the past five years are ‘accessories’ to a cynical bid to brush up the oil-rich Gulf nation’s tarnished image.

Saudi Arabia’s slick PR offensive comes as it battles international condemnation over the suspected murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Screaming Mr Khashoggi, 59, is said to have been recorded in his country’s consulate in Istanbul apparently being chopped up while alive – as the chief Saudi government hitman listened to music on earphones.

Saudi Arabia is also under intense scrutiny for staging bombing raids across Yemen that have killed thousands of civilians.

In 2016, British parliamentarians accepted £35,062 of junkets, gifts and other benefits from the authoritarian regime. But this year the figure is more than three times higher at £106,418 – and it is only October. The total since 2015 has been put at £208,000.

….. Last night Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: ‘At the same time as the MPs were enjoying luxury flights and hotels, human rights defenders were being abused and Yemen was being bombed.

‘MPs should be speaking out and taking action, not accepting gifts and hospitality.

‘The Saudi regime has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world, and MPs should not be supporting it. …”

West Country Tory MP feels completely out of place in his party

“A Tory backbencher has criticised the government and said he would not have stood as an MP “if the situation was like it is now”.

Johnny Mercer told The House magazine he was no longer sure that his “set of values and ethos” were still “aligned with the Conservative Party”.

The party had “lost focus” on fighting for what it believed in and instead was focused on “technocrats and managers”.

Mr Mercer, an ex-Army officer, has said he never voted until he became an MP
The MP for Plymouth Moor View has been critical of the party before, telling the Telegraph in 2017 it was “in danger of losing credibility”.

In his interview with The House, Mr Mercer – who was first elected in 2015 – was critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s response to a questions about investigations into Northern Ireland veterans, saying “she did not answer in a way that made me proud to be a member of the governing party”.

And, of her Chequers blueprint for post-Brexit relations with the EU, he said: “That is your classic professional politicians’ answer because it’s right down the middle. It doesn’t make anybody happy. It’s the ultimate in not making a decision.”

He said, “under this chief whip, under this prime minister, there is no role for people like me” but added: “That’s fine because nothing lasts forever.” He admitted he would like to be defence secretary – Mr Mercer has campaigned for veterans, including those with mental health problems.

Mr Mercer said that while his “set of values and ethos” had been aligned with the Conservative Party, “I’m not as comfortable that that’s the case anymore.”

And he added: “If the situation was like it is now, I can safely say there would be absolutely no chance that I would try and be a member of Parliament.

“CIPFA warns councils over serious commercial activity concerns”

“CIPFA is to work on fresh guidance over concerns councils in England are putting public funds at “unnecessary or unquantified risk” when borrowing to invest in commercial property.

In a statement released today, the insitute suggested local authorities were investing in commercial properties disproportionately to their resources.

This would be against the requirements of the CIPFA’s Prudential Code and Treasury Management code, the joint statement from CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman and chair of CIPFA’s treasury and capital management panel Richard Paver, said.

Whiteman and Paver said that “in some cases these investments have been financed by borrowing” and CIPFA shared concerns there had been an “acceleration of the practice of borrowing to invest in commercial property”.

They warned councils the “prime policy objective of a local authority’s treasury management investment activities is the security of funds, and that a local authority should avoid exposing public funds to unnecessary or unquantified risks”.

CIPFA’s code and the government’s Statutory Guidance on Local Government Investments were “very clear that local authorities must not borrow more than or in advance of their needs purely in order to profit from the investment of the extra sums borrowed”.

The institute will “issue more guidance and will make it clear that these investment approaches are not consistent with the requirements of fiscal sustainability, prudence and affordability,” the statement said.

Government figures released last week showed an increase in local authorities’ commercial activities.

English councils’ acquisition of land and buildings rose by £1.2bn (43.1%) to £4bn in 2017-18 from £2.8bn in 2016-17, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data revealed.

Total borrowing by councils in England had risen from £4.4bn in 2013-14 to £10bn in 2017-18.

The guidance is expected to be published before the end of the year.

Until it is released, CIPFA advised local authorities to refer to the government guidance, which cautions local authorities against:

– Becoming dependent on commercial income;

– Taking out too much debt relative to net service expenditure; and

– Taking on debt to finance commercial investments.

The MHCLG figures out last week showed the largest investors in commercial property were Spelthorne Borough Council at £270m and Warrington Borough Council with £220m. Eastleigh Borough Council also spent £194m.

In 2016, Spelthorne took out 50 separate Public Works Loan Board loans to fund the purchase of a £360m business park in Sunbury-on-Thames.

PF understands that MHCLG and the Treasury have expressed concern about the scale of commercial property investment.

MHCLG has been contacted for comment.”

Crime up 17% in Devon and Cornwall police area

Owl says: one way to get more officers on the beat is to abolish the post of Police and Crime Commissioner and the 20+ staff that work for her. But would you believe (you would) that it is impossible to find out exactly how much she and her staff cost? Accounts are (designed to be?) impenetrable. AND there is no central register of the overall cost of the 40+ Police and Crime Commissioners in post!

“Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said she is committed to “securing more funding for front-line officers” – as new figures show a rise in recorded crime.

Between July 2017 and June 2018, recorded crime was up 17% in the Devon and Cornwall force area, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Nationally there was an increase of 10%.

Alison Hernandez said she was “concerned” about a rise in violent offences, although she said serious violent offences “are still very unusual in the peninsula”.

“It’s clear to me that more money is needed to support greater officer numbers,” she said.

She added she was working with her office to help tackle the increases.”

“Politicians may finally be catching on: towns now hold the key to Britain’s future”

“… Everywhere we go, people talk about the fate of their town centres with amazing passion, and frustration. Obviously, the Altrincham model of regeneration will not suit everywhere, to say the least. Labour now has a five-point plan for high streets that takes in an end to ATM charges, free wifi, a new register of empty properties, free bus travel for under-25s and reform of business rates. It sounds promising, though perhaps evades something that is glaringly obvious: conventional chain-store retailing is dying fast and high streets need to find new uses. Until this sinks in, the mood of resentment and political disconnection that characterises many of our towns will fester on.

With good reason, the political debate about austerity tends to focus on cuts to such crucial services as adult and children’s social care, education, libraries and public transport. But there is also an overlooked ambient austerity manifested in streets festooned with rubbish and the decline and decay of public space – and it has a huge effect on how people feel about where they live and what politics has to offer them.

… Obviously, young people who are not happy in towns tend to leave. It is the older generations who stick around, and who feel the changes to town life more deeply. Despite the fashionable idea that Britain’s current malaise will be miraculously ended once they begin to die off, they are going to be around for some time to come.

Wherever we go, with good reason, most people we meet have no sense of which bit of government is responsible for this or that aspect of their lives – only that the forces making the decisions are remote, seemingly unaccountable and rarely interested in where they live. Many urban areas have been recently boosted by the creation of “city regions” governed by “metro mayors”; in Scotland and Wales, devolution has brought power closer to people’s lives. In most English towns, by contrast, systems of power and accountability are pretty much as they were 40 years ago.

… What this does to people’s connection with politics is clear. To quote a report by the recently founded thinktank the Centre for Towns, “on average, people living in cities are much less likely to believe that politicians don’t care about their area. Those living in towns are, in contrast, more likely to think politicians don’t care about their area – and won’t in the future.”

There lies the biggest issue of all. The future of our towns will only partly be decided by the high-octane rituals of Westminster debate, and general elections. What really matters is whether they might finally run a much greater share of their own affairs – and, to coin a memorable slogan, take back control.”

Sidford Business Park: a begged question

If the Sidford Business Park was turned down because of

“the potentially lethal combination of narrow roads and increased heavy goods vehicle usage” …

why was it hurriedly and grubbily added to the Local Plan at the last minute?

“Planners have said NO to Sidford Business Park and turned down the controversial plans over a potentially lethal combination of narrow roads and increased heavy goods vehicle usage.

East Devon District Council planners rejected plans to build industrial, storage and non-residential institutions on agricultural land to the east of Two Bridges Road in Sidford.

They were refused on the grounds of harm to highway safety, relating to increased heavy goods vehicle usage of the area’s narrow roads and the decision was made by officers with the Chairman of Development Management Committee, Cllr Mike Howe, in accordance with the Council’s Constitution. …”