Hammersmith and Fulham languishes at the bottom of the local authority league table for recycling rates. This has serious financial as well as environmental consequences. Diverting each ton of waste from the Belvedere incinerator (where it would otherwise go) to recycling saves the Council Taxpayer £117.
Thus there was a welcome initiative from the Western Riverside Waste Authority to provide an incentive to improve recycling rates including a prize draw. Hammersmith and Fulham is a member of this authority – along with Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea and Lambeth.
But in an extraordinary, and highly expensive u-turn, Hammersmith and Fulham Council has withdrawn its support for the scheme.
It would have involved at £20,000 individual prize – the winner coming from those in the boroughs who recycled.
That is a lot of money – but it would have come from central Government coffers. The expectation was that precisely due to it being an eye catching sum the publicity would have an impact:
“It is estimated that an uplift of 3% of dry recycling will be achieved in the first year, 2015/16. This estimate is based around the success of a reward scheme currently operating in Southend‐on‐Sea Borough Council. It is also estimated that the overall contamination rate for each of the four boroughs will be reduced by 2%.”
There would also have been £5,000 prizes for residents associations and community groups.
Now it is true to say that neither Cllr Wesley Harcourt, the H&F Cabinet Member for the Environment, or Cllr Michael Cartwright, the Deputy Leader of the Council, attended the meeting on October 8th last year when the proposal was first discussed – although they were both invited and had initially agreed to do so.
However there were plenty of subsequent opportunities for them to make clear if the Council did not wish to take part. The opposite decision was made – and then repeatedly confirmed.
On November 6th last year there was an email from Kathy May:
“Councillor Harcourt has just phoned to say he would rather ‘go with the flow’ than lose the opportunity of the bid, so he is accepting that the £20k individual prize will remain.”
Thus it was that the bid was signed off Mark Jones, Director for Finance and Resources, Transport and Technical Services Department, Environment, Leisure and Residents Services Department, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Just to double check the next day the General Manager at WRWA emailed Cllr Harcourt who responded that he “agreed we should go with the flow so to speak and have told our officers to proceed accordingly.”
On November 25th both Cllr Harcourt and Cllr Michael Carwright, the Deputy Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, attended a meeting of the WRWA which confirmed the plan. Not a peep from either of them.
Then on February 5th this year (at a meeting attended by Cllr Harcourt) the minutes record:
“The Deputy General Manager advised that there had not yet been a response to the application to the Recycling Reward Scheme for a “Golden Ticket” competition. However, the Authority had commenced its publicity campaign to improve recycling of glass and paper funded through the London Waste and Recycling Board; a report would be made to the next meeting.”
Even then Cllr Harcourt could have said that he was awfully sorry but there had been a terrible misunderstanding and H&F no longer no wished to take part. But like Brer Fox he lay low.
Perhaps there was still some doubt about H&F approval? Further confirmation was sought, particular conditions specified. In an email to Kathy May on March 17th this year, Cllr Harcourt said: “Yes, go ahead.”
Then on May 9th it was announced that H&F would not proceed after all. This suddenly discovered point of principle against cash prizes doesn’t apply to encouraging paying Council Tax by direct debit – where the council takes part on a £25,000 prize draw along with other members of London Councils.
Cllr Max Schmid, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said:
“We hope the chance to win £25,000 will encourage even more residents to pay this way.”
By that time 450,000 booklets of tickets had been printed with all four borough logos on. They have had to be, er, recycled. The cost is £42,000 which the WRWA now propose to recover (entirely) from Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
What a waste.