Wednesday, 27 June 2012

LGA Environment and Housing Board Report – June 2012

Flytipping on farmland
This Environment and Housing Board was in Birmingham to coincide with the LGA Annual Conference. It was half the cost of travel to London which I was pleased about. I suggested they held some meetings in Huddersfield – a nice central location.

The revised Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Local Government Association was up for discussion. There had been concern that DECC had on occasions implemented relevant policies (such as changes to Feed In Tariffs) with little or no consultation with Local Authorities. I made 2 contributions on the proposed shared statement between DECC and LGA. One to acknowledge that Councils had been the instigators of many of the leading energy efficiency projects that have occurred in recent years and that it is they and not central government that have the expertise and experience to deliver action on climate change.. Another point I made was that simply reducing local authority estate emissions on its own was not enough. If this was achieved simply through the sale of old energy inefficient buildings this and not through improvements to the existing stock this would not necessarily mean any reductions in carbon emissions in the area just a transfer of those emissions from the public sector to the private sector.

DEFRA are to hold a Flytipping Summit in July. One proposal on their agenda is to encourage Councils to exempt farmers from costs for disposing of flytipped materials. This proposal is fraught with difficulties. A small minority of unscrupulous farmers could effectively run illicit waste disposal businesses at no cost to themselves. There is also the question as to why should we exempt farmers as opposed to any other private landowner and why should cash strapped local authorities shoulder the cost of disposing of this waste. We should be focussing on the problem of flytipping not letting one particular group off the costs of paying for it. This proposal from DEFRA looks like an unworkable non starter.

The ongoing welfare reforms was another contentious issue on the agenda. The proposed benefits cap, the size criteria for under occupied rented housing and benefit payments no longer go to private landlords but straight to tenants all seem designed to make life more difficult for those on low incomes and to generate more homeless families and suffering. Government seems to have developed these policies  believing there is a mass availability of alternative cheap accommodation in other areas and that households would be able  to move many miles to  find a job in another area with cheaper accommodation.  The broad thrust of this was that households in London and the South East would move from the overcrowded and expensive south to the cheaper North where there are apparently lots of jobs. Clearly  a policy not in any way related to the real world.

I informed the meeting that I had been in touch with Councillors in Calderdale asking for feedback on issues arising from the recent floods  in my capacity as the Chair of the LGA’s Inland Flood Risk Working Group. Todmorden, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge were badly affected by the recent floods and I am keen to ensure our contacts with DEFRA on flooding issues are informed by real life experiences from people and communities affected.

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