The Local Government Association (LGA) has published an evaluation of council projects funded by its Waste and Recycling Programme. It says, as can be the case with grant funding, it doesn’t believe the project was “doomed to succeed”.
In its evaluation, the LGA says it is possible that projects run through grant programmes like the Waste and Recycling programme are “doomed to succeed”, meaning grant recipients may be reluctant to allow projects that are “unviable or underperforming” to come to a halt due to the perception that they must demonstrate the value of the project and the funding.
However, the LGA believes the projects supported by the Waste and Recycling programme have been forthcoming about any changes they have made to plans and any challenges experienced, and does not think that this has been a major issue.
The Waste and Recycling Programme was open to English councils, and involved a mini competition of bids from councils for around £20,000 each to help develop and promote innovative approaches to waste and recycling.
The funded projects each aimed to bring about efficiencies in councils’ services that could be replicable in other councils.
At a time when councils face difficult choices about services in the light of reducing budgets, the LGA’s Waste and Recycling Programme supported several projects involving councils across England to run projects to help councils make productivity savings in delivering waste services.
There were a number of aims that were common to more than one of the projects, the LGA says. These included minimising the amount of waste generated, increasing the level of reuse and recycling and combatting fly-tipping.
Other aims included increasing the efficiency of a service, reducing costs and generating income. One project aimed to explore ways of reducing nitrogen oxide pollution through changing the refuse fleet to run on a different source of fuel.
In the delivery of these aims, the projects used different tools and approaches. These included working with residents to help boost recycling rates, taking a more concerted enforcement and compliance approach where appropriate and working jointly with other partners.
Other tools used by the projects included taking new approaches to procurement and refining specification, learning from other councils and making use of data.
The projects have been running since summer 2015, and as expected have made varying degrees of progress to date. A number of factors have influenced the progress made by projects. These include:
- Reduced funding from government and the resulting cuts to back office services brings about inevitable challenges in collaborating with other councils. Where projects involved several councils, this sometimes caused difficulties if partners were slow to respond or to share the necessary data.
- Unforeseen circumstances – for instance, severe flooding in December 2015 had a significant impact on delivery of Cumbria’s project.
- Restructuring of organisations – in some cases, restructuring within the council or within external partners caused delays to projects.
- Conflicting priorities with other council departments – for example, colleagues
in a council’s planning department
raising questions around the delivery of interventions in some areas versus others.