The continued roll out of the vaccine and the drop in numbers of infections and deaths due to Covid-19 continues to be good news in what has been a hard start to 2021. The winter lockdown has been difficult for everyone and although it will be good to see restrictions lift, I think we are all mindful of Professor Chris Whitty’s warning and the continued need to support colleagues in public health.
For the public sector as a whole, the pandemic has placed huge strains on already stretched services, and I am always amazed at how we continue to maintain services and safeguard our communities. The recent report from the National Audit Office, Local Government Finance in the Pandemic, has set out how the financial position of local authorities is still highly concerning despite government funding to address the impacts of COVID-19. ADEPT has been arguing that local authorities need a bigger slice of the cake and we are continuing our work with our colleague professional associations, the ADPH, ADASS, ADCS and the LGA to make this case to government.
The long awaited prospectus for the Levelling Up Fund has been published and ADEPT has been working with DfT to seek clarity on some of the details around criteria and priority levels. There has been much speculation around how decisions will be made and given the costs to local government in putting bids together, it is imperative we understand which of our schemes we should put forward. DfT has reiterated that the most important criteria will be those local projects that make a real difference to their areas and that priority areas will be used to assess bids. However, they have stated that further guidance will be issued shortly, and that there will be further funding rounds.
As mentioned in my last update, we have created a Planning Working Group as part of the Sustainable Growth Board. I’m pleased to welcome Paul Barnard from Plymouth City Council as Chair. Paul has been supporting the planning element of the Board’s work for some time so it’s great news that he has been able to take on the role, particularly as we wait for the outcome of the Planning White Paper consultation. ADEPT’s response to that consultation can be found here. We have also responded to the MHCLG consultation on Right to regenerate: reform of the right to contest.
We have submitted our response to the Cabinet Office consultation, Transforming Public Procurement, and continue to work with Cabinet Office to put forward our members’ views.
The 19th ADEPT waste survey for w/c 1st March has been published. Staff absences, whether through sickness or self-isolation, are still the main cause of disruption and we are seeing that most clearly with Household Waste Recycling Centres. Only 31% of responding local authorities report these as operating normally, down from 40% in the previous survey (w/c15th February). Food waste collections have been hit hard, with 35% of councils reporting issues. 21% are reporting minor disruption to core refuse collection services, with 23% experiencing minor or moderate disruption to core recycling collections. Garden and bulky waste collection service provision has improved significantly since the last survey. Unsurprisingly, councils are reporting residual (black bag) waste, recycling, food and now garden waste tonnages consistently higher than pre-Covid levels. The press release is here.
Our Live Labs teams are moving ahead at pace, with trials currently underway or due to launch. The range of technology and innovation, from thermal roads and walkways that harvest kinetic energy, to sensors that can support adult social care, and data analytics that will help to address air quality, are truly inspiring. And considering they have continued to push ahead during a pandemic, it is fantastic to see the results and outcomes that are starting to come through. We will be publishing our second Live Labs White Paper, Digital Innovation in Local Roads shortly, so look out for it on our Live Labs pages. The latest blog examines the Cumbria Live Lab’s contribution to the circular economy through trialling plastic roads. Find out more here.
Finally, a reminder that we will be holding our virtual Spring Seminar on the afternoon of 27th May in place of our Spring Conference. The theme is Reimagining places: a focus on town centres & high streets. Our AGM will take place beforehand and I am pleased to say that the afternoon will finish with the Annual President's Awards, which we had to put on hold last year due to coronavirus. It will be an awards ceremony with a difference! Register for the seminar here and find out more about the President’s Awards and download your entry form here.
As always, keep watching our COVID-19 updates page for the latest news. Stay safe everyone.