Calke Abbey – dual standards?

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I am a big fan of the National Trust and what it does in terms of preserving our heritage and also providing very pleasant destinations for a few hours walk or similar. As a family we have been members for many years and I do feel it provides great value for money.

Recent years have seen the Trust move towards increasingly more open and commercial approaches to their property management and ‘offer’. Some see this as a negative thing – but I don’t agree, it has made the properties far more popular and busy, they have to move with the times to survive and fund the works to their portfolio of properties and estates.

In many places the retail offer has been expanded to increase the provision of food and drinks – either by way of new cafe or restaurant premises within the properties themselves or in adjacent outbuildings. This is always done in a sensitive manner in keeping with the property and its environment – just as the National Trust do most things.

The new cafe
The new cafe

Calke Abbey which is one of my favourite local NT properties is a classic case in this regard, it is very popular and the restaurant has been ‘creaking’ for a number of years. There is an area to the rear of the restaurant which has been used as a picnic area for years and it has buildings around it which have cried out for refurbishing for a cafe use or similar for years. Finally last year this work was completed and there is now a very smart cafe in this area – and it has been completed in a very sensitive way to fit in with the surrounding buildings – well done National Trust.

However I am at a loss to understand why all hot drinks from here are served in disposable paper cups – this is surely totally at odds with the Trust’s ‘ethics’? One thing that is always noticeable at a NT property is the lack of bins – they expect people to take their rubbish home with them (which most do). So why have they now chosen to use something which I accept probably can be recycled but is surely nowhere as ‘green’ as using traditional crockery and then washing it?

Or am I missing something?

Fly-tipping – a social issue?

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the data

Harsh words – but well earnt in my opinion! Fly tipping has apparently reduced since 2010 according to recently released figures. But as far as I am concerned as a country lad, any is too much.

Local authorities in England have reported that they had dealt with nearly 820,000 incidents of fly tipping in 2011, with 63 percent of these incidents classified as ‘household waste’. This represents a drop of 13 percent since 2010, allegedly since local authorities have increased their enforcement of prosecutions for fly tipping incidents – although more on that later.

In 2011, there were 2,409 prosecutions of waste offenders by local authorities, with 96 percent of these resulting in conviction; most often resulting in a fine. Now on the face of it that sounds quite impressive until you look at the figures more closely;

  • 820,000 reported incidents (how many more slipped through the net?)
  • 2409 prosecutions – that is only 2.9%!
  • 96% success rate in prosecution – so most they catch are scum!

Fly tipping is totally unacceptable – most comes from either a lack of respect for the environment or basic financial greed! If people managed considered their waste disposal properly and didn’t use the ‘bargain clearance services’ offered by the wide boys we would not have this issue.

Looking at my local area (Rushcliffe) it is clear to see this is a problem in rural council areas, 729 incidents, but only one prosecution – so the detection rate is also not great!

We need better enforcement – prison sentences not fines, and confiscation of vehicles etc. Let’s stamp out this problem once and for all!

Charging to tip

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Over the last two weekends I have spent quite a lot of my time taking rubbish to our local tip in West Bridgford, we all take the service for granted, but it may not last if some councils have anything to do with it. Several local authorities are considering following the lead of six Somerset councils that last month introduced “tip taxes” for the first time.

and lets keep it free......

Last month Somerset Waste Partnership, which manages recycling and waste services on behalf of the six authorities, brought in ‘pay-per-visit’ fees at four recycling centres threatened with closure. Householders now have to pay between £1.20 and £2 to enter the sites.

New charges have also been introduced at all the region’s 18 recycling sites for dumping DIY-type construction and demolition materials such as rubble, soil, old ceramic sinks, tiles and toilets. Residents now pay from £2.90 to £116 to get rid of soil and rubble, £3.30 to £45.60 to dump an old car tyre and £6-£35 for various sizes of gas bottles. Weekly opening hours at the sites have also been reduced from 56 in winter and 70 in summer to 40 hours year-round – with each centre now shut two days a week on a staggered basis.

Residents have been told the changes are required to help make £1.9m of cuts required by Somerset county council. In a similar move, Devon county council has just brought in cash charges for dumping soil and rubble, plasterboard and related products, bonded asbestos and tyres brought to any recycling centre in Devon. All other household waste, including garden waste, recyclables and general waste, remains free to dump.

The Somerset changes, particularly the new entry charges at the four at-risk centres – now renamed community recycling sites for legal reasons – were condemned by Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, when announced in March – and for once he is right! He said;

“These tip taxes are utterly counterproductive, charging for using recycling centres and the local dump will create perverse incentives for fly-tipping, harming the local environment and diverting taxpayers’ money to clean up the mess”

Since the changes came in, the number of people using the four centres with entry fees are down and fly-tipping outside the gates increased in the first couple of weeks.

Authorities only have a legal obligation to provide recycling centre facilities for household waste, not DIY-type items from the repair or improvement of houses, which is classified as construction waste. This also includes waste created from landscaping or garden alterations such as dismantling a rockery or digging up a patio.

Councils have also begun introducing or increasing fees for collecting bulky household items such as fridges or sofas from your home. In an emerging postcode lottery, residents might be charged on one street for collections, but just streets away it is free. For example, collections for Southwark council in London are free, but neighbouring Lambeth council charges £20. Liverpool and Manchester do not charge, while Brighton asks residents for £4.30 to £51.20 depending on the item.

In Rushcliffe we are all to be charged extra for emptying our green bins from July – is this the thin end of the wedge?

I am all for saving money, but this just does not make sense! Fly tipping will increase and that is not acceptable.

Council Newspapers

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I am aware that I am beginning to appear to be a ‘grumpy old man’, perhaps I am getting to that age and my blog is bringing the worst out in me. I am not sure, but I do know that certain things annoy me, and have done for some time!

An example

One of those things is Council ‘newspapers’. It has always seemed pointless to me to be told by my local council about things that I can read in the local paper or see on the local TV news. The papers have always appeared to me to be a case of self publicity and perhaps trying to prove the councils existence? It also would seem to provide a role for the recycling staff!

I am therefore a slightly less grumpy old man this morning with the news that the government is to tighten the rules relating to council funded newspapers. Ostensibly this is aimed at stopping the councils competing with the free newspapers who have suffered recently from a fall in advertising revenue, but are seen as providing a valuable service.

In reality hopefully it will stop the councils trying to ‘sell themselves’ to us and in the process waste our money! No doubt my local council would have been looking forward to telling me about its latest daft idea itself, now luckily I only have to read about it in the Nottingham Evening Post!

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary put it beautifully with these two soundbites;

“propaganda on the rates, dressed up as reporting”

“Town hall Pravdas”

Here’s to the end of a large part of the UK’s recycling costs as well!