It has been reassuring to see the Government take a more measured route out of lockdown based on data. Although there is inevitable discussion and disagreement about the approach to schools reopening and concern amongst business and the tourism industry, it is useful to have some degree of certainty on the route forward. All eyes are now on the Budget, where the Chancellor is expected to announce a continuation of support for business, the furlough scheme and other job support schemes, at least in the short term. For place directors, the first big test is the back to school period from the 8th March, but at present, members are not indicating any concerns about homes to school transport.
Highways maintenance funding remains a pressing issue and ADEPT is continuing to work with DfT to push for more support, particularly in light of a smaller funding pot for the forthcoming financial year. We have been discussing the development of a comprehensive evidence base that demonstrates the value of maintenance across a broad range of government policy agendas, including decarbonisation, recovery from COVID-19 and improving air quality, as well as health and wellbeing. We would like to see this work reflected in changes to the self-assessment survey process, which is currently the Department’s key data gathering method. To support this work, we will be refreshing the ADEPT policy position on highways maintenance, which was published in November 2018.
We’re responding to two MHCLG consultations - Right to Regenerate: reform of the Right to Contest (deadline 13 March) and the National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals (deadline 27 March). We are also summitting a response to the Office of Rail and Road’s consultation on level crossings.
Sue Halliwell (co-chair, South East Board) spoke on behalf of the Blueprint coalition at the Climate Change Committee webinar on the role of local authorities in meeting net zero. The meeting was very well attended by over 550 delegates, with more watching on the YouTube Livestream. Among the themes discussed were airports, the road building programme, connected communities and inclusivity and diversity. Louise Marix Evans, who developed the supporting paper Local Authorities and the sixth Carbon Budget, also discussed her next piece of work on rural net zero. This has prompted discussion amongst the Leadership Team on the need for an ADEPT policy position on the rural recovery, economy and transport.
The Excellence in Place Leadership Programme welcomed its second cohort on 22 January. The group decided that the overarching theme for these sessions will be Building Back Better. Work is currently underway to develop sessions on green renewal, organisational renewal and economic renewal. We will be publishing blogs and outcomes on each of these on the ADEPT website. Catch up with the work of Cohort 1 here, including the recently published Customer Experience Toolkit.
The Sustainable Growth Board is making some changes, with the creation of a new Working Group dedicated to Planning. The Board is also developing a new area of work focused on green recovery. We’ll have more details on these soon. I am also pleased to announce the launch of the North West Board, which will meet for the 1st time on 17 March. There will be a climate change webinar for the Yorkshire & Humber region on 18 March (please contact Hannah Bartram if you’d like to attend).
The latest ADEPT waste survey for w/c 15th February has been published. It was good to see staff absences, whether through sickness or self-isolation, are falling. However, we are still seeing some disruption to core services. 76% of responding local authorities are reporting residual waste services operating as normal, with 69% reporting normal recycling services, down from the previous survey. There are some indications that the recent severe weather has had an impact on all services, with 14% of councils reporting adverse weather as a cause of disruption. This has also affected Household Waste Recycling Centres, with only 40% indicating that they are operating normally. The press release is here.
Finally, we had hoped to be able to get together in person for this year's Spring Conference. However, given the ongoing uncertainties relating to hosting major events, instead we will be holding a Spring Seminar on 27th May. This will take the form of a shorter interactive seminar and panel discussion and preceded by the AGM. The afternoon will finish with the much-anticipated Annual President's Awards. 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.