Off yer bike: Barrie’s story

Like many people lucky enough to have a garden to use during the Coronavirus lockdown period, I accumulated much more garden waste (grass, weeds, etc) than usual. During this time the waste collection service was suspended and the recycling centre closed so when the service restarted I had plenty of garden waste to dispose of.

I have tried composting in the past but have not got sufficient/suitable space.

I looked at buying the green disposable garden waste bags from the council but considered the £40 charge for 25 bags or £10 for 5 bags a bit steep. However, even more off-putting, I am told by FBC that these bags are NOT made of a compostable material and the bags are not recyclable because there are no manufacturers that will recycle it.

Being green in colour does not make them compostable or bio-degradable and disposable means they are emptied of their contents, added to non-recyclable waste, and burned for energy recovery (how much energy can you get from a plastic bag?!).

Taking green garden waste to the recycling centre by car would be an unnecessary journey along with the associated air pollution.

 So I looked at cycling, carrying the garden waste in a small trailer, a mere 15 minute ride from Stubbington to the Grange Road recycling facility.

This time I am thwarted by HCC who state that ‘entering the recycling facility on a bicycle would be considered ‘pedestrian access’ and that this has always been ‘discouraged’ as HWRCs do not have pedestrian accesses. HCC also ask that customers use a vehicle to enter and exit sites safely to help ensure the safety of customers and staff and also to avoid accusations of queue jumping: not forgetting that I am ‘safe’ to cycle on the roads to the facility!

Considering council tax goes to support the recycling facilities, the costs of additional ‘green’ bags and the end product being sold back to us at a profit (no doubt) it seems as though we are being taken for a ride.

Barrie Webb

Covid: Knowing our place

We should all be thankful that here in Fareham we are one of the Local Authorities least affected by Covid-19.

Leicester’s latest local lockdown, however, raises key questions for all Local Authorities and their communities.

It is now abundantly clear that Leicester’s local management was not fully aware of its Covid-19 crisis. Central government had a rough idea that there was a problem but didn’t share the data or act on it quickly.

But would our Local Authority have managed any better? How well do we know our place? Fareham’s Borough Council is surely not a mere agency of the national Head Office – or at least we would hope not. For who can trust the current competence of Head Office?

Here in Fareham, we and all our residents and local employees need to know that our Local Authority is totally on top of the metrics. And the only way that we will know that is by openly publishing critical up-to-date information.

We should, at least, know the answers to seven basic questions:

  • Is our local population infection rate under control?
  • Is our local healthcare system capacity sufficient?
  • Do we have sufficient local testing and contact tracing, and is the system working effectively and efficiently?
  • How well are folk in Fareham complying with public health safety measures?
  • How well are we ensuring the protection and preparedness of essential workers?
  • Are we protecting and preparing places where people are gathered – like Care Homes?
  • What are we doing to ensure preparedness of businesses for reopening?

The answers for Fareham may be comforting, but this is not rocket science*. These are very basic questions that sit on top of a host of finer detail – essential metrics that must be monitored locally to ensure your community management is in safe hands.

Since the crisis in Leicester, more data on infection rates in every Local Authority has become available but few places, if any, have a complete overview of the current situation in sufficient detail to enable rapid hyper-local responses to any new outbreak. Any lack of local insight illustrates dependency on over-centralised systems – an abdication of local authority.

Here in Fareham, we are truly fortunate to be among the least-affected, but questions of trust remain: How well do we know our place? What can we do locally to reduce the future risk of dependence on outsourced management?

*A full list of the main and subsidiary metrics was compiled by Johns Hopkins University together with a clear specification of the granularity required to identify ‘at risk’ sections of society. The list shown above is a local adaptation of an American text issued by Bloomberg Philanthropies.