Elmbridge’s Climate Emergency

The Climate Proposal

At a full Council meeting on Wednesday, 17 July, Elmbridge Borough Council declared a Climate Emergency.

Councillors have pledged to take local action to contribute to national carbon neutral targets through the development of practices and policies, with an aim of making Elmbridge Borough Council carbon neutral.

The motion, put forward by Cllr Mary Marshall, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Portfolio Holder for the Environment, and seconded by Cllr Tricia Bland, of the Thames Ditton and Weston Green Residents’ Party, outlined that ‘urgent action’ is required to limit the effects of global warming, which not only affects the people of Elmbridge but people around the globe, and that action needed to start with Elmbridge Borough Council and the services it provides.

The Climate Debate

The Climate Emergency motion was proposed by Cllr Mary Marshall, our Liberal Democrat councillor from Claygate.  Mary is our deputy leader and heads up the group’s environmental policy.  It was natural that she became the borough’s environment portfolio holder.

  • Mary’s proposal speech gives a comprehensive account as to why this proposal is necessary and you can watch it here.
  • Our Liberal Democrat cabinet member for corporate affairs, Cllr Christine Elmer, gave an account of allied work in this policy area that the borough has undertaken in the past.  You can watch her speech here.
  • Cllr Andrew Davis, our deputy leader of the council, gave support as to why 2030 was the more appropriate date than 2050.  His speech is here.
  • You can watch all the debate here (44 minutes).
The Climate Vote

The Conservatives wanted to amend the proposal to extend the date for the corporation to be carbon neutral to 2050 but the Liberal Democrats stressed the need to align with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which recently recommended a target of 2030. The amendment was lost. The full motion was carried with 38 members in favour, none against, seven abstained and three were absent.

The Climate Action

The motion put forward the following as action for the council

  • Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’;
  • Pledge to make Elmbridge Borough Council carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production and consumption emissions; and
  • Report to full Council within six months setting out the immediate action the council will take to address this emergency, offer best efforts to forecast progress towards meeting the 2030 target and produce a methodology to compare the borough with other local lower tier districts.
The Climate background

The Liberal Democrat 2019 Elmbridge Borough manifesto began with

“Climate Change is an existential threat to humankind. We will put Elmbridge on a path to become carbon neutral and will adopt appropriate policies to this end.”

This was the key policy in the strategy of the Elmbridge Liberal Democrats no other elected party had a similar policy. Only an administration that included the Lib Dems would drive this policy through. If the Lib Dems stayed in opposition this policy would have languished until the next election. Although the proportion of Liberal Democrats on the council has doubled in recent years, it is not enough to govern alone. In order to support this and other policies in May, we entered negotiations with other parties with this policy as a cornerstone of any agreement.

Once agreed, plans were put in place to turn policy into reality and last Wednesday’s motion was the first public step on that journey.

Climate – the next steps

Now the motion is passed, the Liberal Democrat/Residents’ coalition will over the summer:

  • Produce a brief for a new committee of all parties, reporting through the cabinet to the council, specifically focused on the climate emergency.
  • Survey the corporation to ascertain its footprint.

In the autumn the new committee will produce a strategy for ensuring the borough meets the target of net zero carbon by 2030.

This Council notes:

Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1˚C from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric C0² levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm).

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) in October 2018 gave us just twelve years to implement changes to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5˚C in order to avoid widespread drought, food scarcity, heat related deaths and loss of biodiversity, including insects and vital food crop pollinators.

At present the world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C limit before 2050. In order to reduce the chance of runaway global warming and limit the effects of climate breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our C0² eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tons per person per year (14 tons per year in Elmbridge) to less than two tons pa as soon as possible.

  1. Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation and infrastructure to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;
  2. Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;
  3. The borough has already made some positive progress, but this is not enough. More can and must be done. The IPPC in its October 2018 report was very clear that action from all parts of society is necessary and local government has a responsibility to lead the way; and
  4. Local governments around the world are therefore responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and taking positive action to address this emergency.
Elmbridge Borough Council believes that:
  1. All levels of government (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of climate breakdown. Local councils that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies;
  2. Elmbridge is already suffering from flooding problems, and a significant proportion of its population and a large number of its settlements are located on low or flood plain areas which would be severely affected by more frequent and extreme storms and rainfall both in the borough and up river. The consequences of the global temperature rising above 1.5˚C are potentially so severe that preventing this from happening is a number one priority; and
  3. Bold local climate action can deliver economic and social benefits in terms of new green jobs, economic savings and market opportunities, as well as much improved well-being for the people living and working in Elmbridge – for example through reducing fuel poverty and energy bills, encouraging healthy, active travel and improving green spaces and access to nature.

Broad Water Surveys

Weybridge CIL board has received bids for £413,000 and has a fund of £510,000 derived from CIL.

Broad Water Surveys – £31,200 (no matched funding) – score 64%

The application is to carry out two surveys of the lake. The silt volume and works needed to reinstate the lake surveys would provide the information needed to develop an overall strategy for the management of the lake. The details would feed into the development of the strategy and future funding applications to various sources to carry out the works.

No CIL funding has been awarded to Broadwater Conservation Society to date.

For the agenda and papers for tomorrow click here

Broad Water Remedial Works

Weybridge CIL board has received bids for £413,000 and has a fund of £510,000 derived from CIL.

Broad Water Remedial Works – £8,000 (matched by £5,000) – score 72%

The application is to carry out remedial works to the north-east end of Broadwater Lake. The works would clear the silt and overgrown vegetation, which will improve the flow and health of the overall lake. Residents will benefit from the improved biodiversity created and water carrying capacity of the lake.

The society had a successful application to this Local Spending Board in 2015 receiving £8,000 for remedial work to Broadwater Lake.

For the agenda and papers for tomorrow click here

Surrey’s Recycling Proposals

Surrey is undertaking several consultations and it seeks your comments by 4 January 2019

Despite changes to recycling centres last year, Surrey’s financial pressures are so severe that consideration needs to be given to whether further savings can be found at community recycling centres.

Surrey’s proposals include:

  • Permanently closing a number of smaller, less effective CRCs, whilst
    increasing the opening hours at some CRCs. Up to six CRC sites are
    under consideration for closure: Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking, Farnham,
    Lyne and Warlingham.
  • Introducing a charge to dispose of construction wood and roofing felt.
  • Increasing the cost of disposing of items we already charge for.
  • Charging an annual application fee for van, pickup and trailer permits.

There are no recycling centres in Elmbridge and residents would probably use
the centres in Leatherhead or Epsom which are not proposed for closure, but
whose opening hours may change.

Further details on all the consultations and the opportunity to submit views on
these proposals can be found here.  The consultation response is at the bottom of the consultation webpage.

The analysis of the responses to the consultations will be presented to Surrey’s cabinet in January 2019 for consideration and then to full council in February.

Elmbridge gives back after waste contract problems

The Council’s approach

Not many people know, but after the problematic start to waste collection under the new contract this time last year, the contractor Amey has had to return nearly £500,000 to Elmbridge Borough.

The Council decided that the money returned should not go into the general Council fund, but should in some way go directly to the residents of Elmbridge.  Some was earmarked as direct compensation to people who had paid extra for garden waste removal services as they were most affected – as a group. These people received a two-month payment holiday – which took up £160,000.

Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund

Of the remaining money, £100,000 will be allocated to the creation of a Community Green Infrastructure Improvement Fund.  This is designed to enable community groups to bid for small grants, against pre-defined criteria, to carry out green infrastructure improvements. The scheme would allow one-off project funds to be spent in a way that encourages community buy in and ownership and ensures that the money goes towards initiatives important to the communities themselves.

It is proposed that criteria could include community involvement, volunteering, legacy, sustainability, biodiversity, more attractive and green borough etc. For example:

A community group could put in a bid to make environmental improvements to their local street scene, such as setting up an In Bloom scheme as at Cobham Station.  The likely amount of grant will be up to £15K per project, to allow communities to create projects with significant impact.

Examples of such activity can be found on page 46 of the Agenda reports pack for the Cabinet meeting held on 6th June this year.  .

Do let us know your ideas for Weybridge.

Amey Says Sorry to Residents For Missed Bins Misery

The borough’s waste collection contractor, Amey, has issued an unreserved apology for the inadequate service they provided to residents when they took over the contract from Veolia earlier this Summer.

Cllr Barry Fairbank, the Environment Portfolio Holder responsible for waste collection in Elmbridge says that “Amey’s initial response to the failings was simply not good enough”.  He reports that the borough is in final discussions about compensation for not fulfilling contractual agreements in the initial weeks which caused such widespread upset and anger, leading to a backlog of uncollected household, food and garden waste in some streets.

Cllr Fairbank added “For weeks, councillors in many wards in Elmbridge were getting large numbers of complaints from residents about missed bins or late collections. Councillors and officers were working round the clock to resolve the problems and ensure that Amey’s crews returned to the properties that were being missed.  My concern was how quickly I could ensure that Amey acknowledged the level of poor performance and what they would do to fix it as quickly as possible. Thanks to our concerted efforts Amey are now up to speed and we are pressing for further improvements”.

At a recent council Committee meeting Rob Edmondson, Managing Director of Amey, the contractor appointed on 3 June to collect Elmbridge’s rubbish agreed that the early performance was not good enough and he offered a sincere apology for the inconvenience to residents and the company’s failure to meet the terms of the contract.  Amey accepted full responsibility for the initial service failings and confirmed that these were operational matters that they have now put right.

Amey had promised the borough that the transition from the previous contractor, Veolia,would be ‘seamless’ and that the service would show an improvement in performance from day one. Acutely aware of their poor performance, Amey are now investing in additional vehicles and additional people, above and beyond the bid level in order to meet the full terms of the contract.

The contract with Amey involves four authorities in Surrey: Elmbridge, Woking, Mole Valley and Surrey Heath. Four years ago these authorities embarked on a procurement process for a joint waste collection contract – heralded as both more efficient and higher quality, saving taxpayers £2million a year overall. Elmbridge was the first authority to mobilise and Woking came on board with Amey two weeks ago.

Councillor Andrew Davis, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, explains that Elmbridge paid the price of being first. “Joint Waste Solutions which is the interface between Amey and all four authorities has worked hard to ensure that Amey sorts its operational problems while Elmbridge Officers and Councillors have worked tirelessly to help residents with their difficulties.”

As a result of this, and our insisting that Amey not only put its house in order but learns from its mistakes, the roll out in Woking has been successful and the 99.9% bin emptying rate has been achieved.

We were promised a better service, and that is what the people of Elmbridge are going to get. Our promise is that we will be holding Amey to account to deliver the service we all deserve.

Refuse Collection in Elmbridge

Elmbridge Borough Council collects nearly a quarter of a million bins every fortnight: 63,000 refuse bins; 57,000 recycling bins; 106,000 food waste bins; and, 18,000 garden waste bins.

We take it for granted – and rightly so – because our bins are collected week in week out on the appointed day.  This has been the case for many years.  Okay the odd bin is missed – around 300 (1%) each day but they are almost always collected later that day or within 48 hours.  Last week the service was back to the standard we have been used to for years and this week it looks as if the new service will surpass the previous record of Veolia.  But what on earth happened in the last eight weeks?

Why did Elmbridge change the service provider?
In short, to improve quality and reduce costs.  The collection of waste is shared between Elmbridge borough and Surrey county.  We collect and Surrey disposes.  We could provide a better service at less cost if only one or other of us did the whole task but the national government does not allow us to do that. Elmbridge’s contract with Veolia was approaching its end as to a lesser extent were the contracts of the other members of what became the Joint Contract.

So we did the next best thing.  We joined with three other boroughs (Mole Valley, Surrey Heath and Woking) along with Surrey county, to provide a better service at a lower cost.  It has been planned for over four years with all eight political parties at Elmbridge being in agreement.  Joint Contract was advertised nationally and internationally.  After exhaustive testing Amey was chosen as the new provider.  It was chosen not because it was the cheapest (it wasn’t) but because it appeared to offer the best quality of service.

What went wrong?
The week before the new contract came into effect, the service level for waste collection was running at 99.6%.  At present the service is running at 99.5%.  Veolia’s contract ended on Friday, 2 June.  At midnight the contract passed to Amey.  All of the Veolia staff were able to transfer to Amey (under TUPE Regulations) and many agreed to do so.  However, under the law staff are not compelled to work for the new provider, even if they said they would.  Unfortunately, six drivers did not turn up on the Monday.  From the first day a quarter of the drivers were not available.  Of course, backup agency drivers were brought in immediately but they cannot match the productivity of the drivers who knew the rounds well.

Why did we let ourselves be the guinea pig for the new contract?
The four boroughs in the scheme are joining at different times to coincide with the ending of each borough’s existing contractual arrangements.  Elmbridge was first and Woking will follow in September.  Being first – if it all goes well – can be an advantage but what if mistakes are made in Elmbridge but any lessons learnt only benefit the other boroughs?  To avoid this, it was suggested that Elmbridge might extend its contract with Veolia another year but this is not possible under public service tendering rules.  Indeed Veolia did not bid for the current joint contract.  It is already clear that Amey will treat Woking differently given that lessons learnt in Elmbridge.

What happened to the food waste collection?
Veolia collected food waste along with the refuse and recycling using one vehicle.  One week it would be food and refuse together and the next week food and recycling together – using separate compartments in the vehicle.  Amey planned to separate food waste collection from the other collections.  The reasons that Amey proposed this change was so that for each type of collection, be it refuse or food waste, a specific vehicle could be used thus optimising effectiveness. With a hybrid waste vehicle, one which has two or more separate collection spaces to keep them separate, one collection space will fill up before the other does.  This increases the number of trips to the tips. In changing the food waste collection Amey under provided the number of food waste collection rounds needed and subsequently had to increase the number from 3 to 5.

There are 10,000 food waste bins to be collected each day in Elmbridge.  Amey calculated, using their experience in similar locations elsewhere, that there would need to be three vehicles and thus Elmbridge was divided into fifteen rounds (three rounds a day for a week).  Unfortunately, on the first day only 65% of the food waste was collected.  Could this be a resource problem or the lack of good knowledge of the local area?  After the first Monday, the judgment was that it would improve the next day.  On Monday night there had been a storm thus making Tuesday’s collection difficult.  It was decided to take a view after Wednesday.  Because the collection rate had averaged 65% for three days it was decided to increase the number of food waste vehicles in week two from two vehicles to four vehicles.

It seems easy just to add an extra vehicle but Elmbridge had already been divided into fifteen rounds for food waste – now it had to be divided into twenty.  Each round taking as much time to collect from as any other round.  The staff now would have to deal with completely different rounds – even though effort was put into making them as similar to the previous week’s round as possible.  By the end of week two the food waste collection rate was up to 80%.  So another vehicle – making five vehicles – would be added for week three.  The rounds had to resized again because now there were twenty-four rounds across Elmbridge.

From week three the food waste collection level approached normal standards for nearly everyone but Elmbridge has a great number of hidden places – some not so hidden.  Whole streets in some cases remained undiscovered.  Marked out maps proved beneficial.  Despite this the missed bins operation was overwhelmed.

Why was my block of flats missed?
It is one thing to not to be able to locate places like “Hidden Cottage” and “Rogue’s Roost” but how could you miss a block of flats?  Or collect from three blocks but not the fourth?  Veolia used to collect waste from blocks of flats using dedicated vehicles.  Amey decided to integrate these locations in the normal rounds – they could be emptied by standard vehicles.  Although access to many blocks are relatively simple, some can be problematic, others have access restrictions.  If no-one was available to make access possible then they had to be missed until such time as access could be gained. These difficulties compounded the delays involved in the rounds.

What happened with collecting the missed bins?
Usually, the number of missed bins is very small and they can be collected on the day or the next working day.  Part of Amey’s proposed service was to introduce an integrated missed-bin collection service.  A resident would make a request for a missed bin to be collected online (or call customer services and it would be done on their behalf) and this information would pass directly to the cab driver.  Such a system was envisaged to allow for missed bins to be collected within hours rather than days.  Unfortunately, the system was not finished before the contract began and the old system had to used.  Combined with the large number of missed bins the usual collection system became overwhelmed.

Why did the catch-up take so long?
The necessity in the early days of the Joint Contract to catch up on a large number of missed bins and missed roads and the under resourcing of certain aspects of the collection teams placed enormous pressure on the daily collection system which has only reduced following the provision of additional resources.

Amey quickly began to increase overtime working later in the afternoon and on Saturdays.  However, the recent planning conditions place on the use of the depot meant that the usage of the refuse trucks could not be maximized.  A school has been built on the route to the depot and access to the depot is not allowed during school pick and drop-off times.  Whilst under normal working conditions this is this planning condition is an inconvenience.  However, in times of maximum catch-up it makes a big impact on the depot.

Why were garden waste bins left behind?
Amey collection teams were provided with information on had paid their subscriptions for garden waste collection but found it difficult to apply these at street level and ended up collecting all garden waste bins regardless of whether or not they were on the list of payers. This added more time to the completion of the rounds and in Amey collecting more garden waste than they were contracted for requiring additional trips to the tip.

The additional time spent on the rounds resulted in rounds not being completed and whole roads being missed.

What happened to communications?
Clearly Elmbridge borough should have the contact details of every household in Elmbridge easily available.  But until the last six months this has not been seen as important.  Had the borough had this information residents in particular streets or block of flats could have been kept up to date (for example by email) as the situation changed around them.  It is bad enough not having one’s waste bin collected but not knowing what is planned to make matters right can be even more frustrating.

What will be done about the level of service in June?
Clearly Elmbridge, through the Joint Waste Solutions (acting on our behalf) will be discussing with Amey the compensation that will be offered considering the poor service in June and the less than acceptable service in July.  Compensation will be agreed based on the 15 Key performance Indicators set out in the Joint Contract.

Where are Elmbridge now with collections?
As of 4 August 2017 the performance of the waste collection service in Elmbridge has significantly improved. Of the 120,776 bins that were due to be emptied last week, missed collection reports from residents indicate that 99.3% were emptied on time. Of the bins that were missed, the majority were returned to within 48 hours.

While this is a considerable step forward we know there is more to do to reach the 99.9% collection target and the teams at Elmbridge Council, at Joint Waste Solutions and Amey are continuing to work hard to achieve that. Any remaining gaps in knowledge and information about the routes and properties are being identified and addressed, so every day the crews are becoming more familiar and knowledgeable about their routes.

Next steps
The transition to the new contract has been more challenging than anticipated and the Council are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused some of our residents and continue to be grateful for resident’s understanding while the issues are being addressed.

We are confident that the service is now on the right track. Elmbridge Council will continue to work together with Joint Waste Solutions and Amey to reach the target and deliver a high performing collection service.

If your bin is missed please report it via the website or call us and Elmbridge Council will make sure that it is emptied as quickly as possible.

Refuse bins change colour

This takes me back.  My first job after full time education was to be a binman (actually a road-sweep but I got promotion).  Back then one had to hold a skip consisting of two bin-loads on the shoulder – very tough job – only the strongest survived.  Today the heavy lifting is by the bin-lorry itself – but the smell remains the same.

To reduce our refuse collection costs and save £millions in the process, Elmbridge has combined its refuse collection service with three other boroughs.

The first change is that all new non-recycling bins will be grey across all four boroughs to reduce purchase costs.

The current charges for refuse collection varies from borough to borough therefore there will be a transition while we all adopt a standard set of charges.  These will begin in June 2017 when Elmbridge enters the new agreement.

Wheelie bin charges.  The new standard charges for new and replacement wheellie bins is £25 for a 180 litre refuse bin; £30 for a 240 litre bin; and £60 for a 360 litre bin.

Garden Waste Collection Service.  For new subscribers the charges will be £45 for the first wheeled bin and £30 per additional wheeled bin.  For existing customers, it was recommended that the Council set the annual subscription charge at £40.   A concessionary subscriptions would apply.

Special Collection Service. £30 for the first item with a charge of £10 for each additional item.  It was also recommended that a concessionary discounts would apply.

Planning Compliance

One of the four key goals for the new Liberal Democrat/Residents administration was the improvement in planning enforcement.

Two measures have already been put in place: to ensure a more communicative service; and, the redrafting of the Elmbridge’s Planning Enforcement Charter in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The borough is to rename the team as the Planning Compliance Team. This would put greater emphasis on ensuring people complied with plans, conditions and the law, with enforcement being the end result in only the minority of cases.

The new team will have access to a branded vehicle in order to remove incorrectly placed estate agents boards and other illegal advertisements, which they were currently unable to do as easily and regularly using staffs’ own vehicles. In addition, staff will also have their own uniform, in common with other borough staff carrying out compliance activities.

The new team will introduce regular ‘surgeries’ and/or participation in existing events such as Let’s Talk Elmbridge in order to provide a greater and more visible presence with the public.

To achieve this the number of compliance staff will be increased 33%.

 

Mole Valley Conservation

Over the years the Lower Mole Partnership (LMP) has built up a large and enthusiastic volunteer group which has carried out a wide range of tasks to implement improvements to the local countryside, four days a week, including weekends, throughout the year.

LMP has also developed a broad spread of skills for tackling specialist countryside management work including landscape enhancements, woodland management and pond restoration as well as access initiatives such as the Thames Down Link footpath.

In 2011/12, as part of the then Conservative administration budget savings exercise, the borough’s grant to the LMP was reduced by £15,000.  The Liberal Democrat/Residents administration has decided to increase the borough’s grant to LMP by £6,280.  This action not only supports the active engagement of many people into nature conservancy but save the borough in task that it would otherwise have to take on itself.