In 2015 we said we would get the basics right if given the chance to lead the council.
One of our aims was to improve recycling in the city, which had fallen from 28 per cent to 25 per cent under the previous Green-led council. This week my colleague Cllr Gill Mitchell, who leads on environmental services, announced that our recycling rates increased to over 29 per cent for April to June this year. This is a tremendous achievement given that nationally recycling rates are falling.
After a decade of improvement, recycling levels in England flatlined for three years, before falling in 2015/16 for the first time because of the cuts to council funds. We are now bucking that trend in Brighton and Hove. Our rates have increased by 2.46 per cent on the same period last year. This is partly down to the 45,000 new recycling wheelie bins distributed across the city. These have only been in place for a few months, but when trialled in Portslade and Hangleton they delivered a four per cent increase in recycling, so we are hoping to see a bigger increase in the coming months.
Another popular initiative by the Labour-led council has been the garden waste collections scheme costing just £1 a week. I know from my own experience just what a useful service this is, with no more trips to Wilson Avenue with damp tree cuttings and leaves in the back of my car!
Clearly, councils with a more rural makeup can generate a lot more recycling from garden waste. It is much harder for councils with dense urban areas. So let’s compare like with like. The Association for Public Service Excellence says our benchmark authorities are Gateshead, Blackpool, Stockton-on- Tees, Havering, Rotherham, North Tyneside and Blackburn. Blackpool is the highest on 45 per cent recycling, Stockton-on-Tees the lowest on 25.7 per cent. So we are now picking up against our statistical “neighbours”. We have to keep working to increase recycling. Our natural resources are finite so reusing materials for the products we need is essential and conserves energy. Here in Brighton and Hove, whilst we have a lot more to do, we are now getting back on track with our recycling.
Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.