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A project piloted in the Midlands “to facilitate better co-ordination of litter clearing operations” between local authorities and Highways England was launched in 2105.

In 2016 the Government said it “considers it sensible to see the full results of this work in the Midlands before examining the case for more radical reform” i.e. making Highways England responsible for litter picking those of it’s trunk roads were currently the responsibility lies with the local authorities.

However although the pilot has been completed no report has been produced on the progress made /lesson learnt.

Was the whole thing a device for kicking the issue into the proverbial long grass?

Recommendation 16 of of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report on Litter and Fly-tipping stated:

We recommend that the Government make the Highways Agency responsible for cleaning trunk roads and make the necessary budget adjustments. Similarly, we recommend that responsibility for cleaning trunk roads in the London area should become the responsibility of Transport for London. 

In their December 2015 formal response the Government said

Strengthening relationships with partners and stakeholders such as local authorities will be an opportunity to work more effectively to resolve issues such as these.


A pilot project in the Midlands is being progressed to enhance collaborative working between Highways England and local authorities on cleaning the strategic network in the region. A regional working group, through the Keep Britain Tidy Network of local authorities and other stakeholders, will ensure that a strategic approach to preventing litter can be achieved. This model would then be shared as best practice to encourage effective partnership working. Enough time would need to be allowed to establish these new working practices.

[See paras 34 and 35]

This was re-iterated in a letter from Marcus Jones MP Minister for Local Government in April 2016 in which he wrote:

The government company Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) is currently pursuing a policy of collaborative working with local authorities and is identifying best practice to roll out across the country. Its present engagement with local authorities regarding litter tends to be informal. However, a litter partnership agreement, which mirrors agreements it has with local authorities concerning diversion routes, will help build relationships and facilitate better co-ordination of litter clearing operations. Highways England’s Midlands region signed a partnership agreement with a number of local authorities in December 2015 which formalised a collaborative approach to working to clear litter. This is already delivering results from widespread sharing of equipment and resources.

As we stated in our response to the DCLG Select Committee’s report into litter and fly- tipping, the Government considers it sensible to see the full results of this work in the Midlands before examining the case for more radical reform.

So in October 2018 I submitted a freedom of information enquiry to the DfT asking for details of the arrangement and for any reports etc looking at the progress being made / lessons learn.

I was told that the Midlands pilot had been superseded by a nationally consistent approach. No reports looking at the progress / lessons learnt were forthcoming.

On 1st October 2018 Highways England wrote to Helen Flynn to say: ” …we also recognise we need to do more to help facilitate better coordination of operations between Local Authorities and ourselves and a briefing note was produced to help partnership working”. When I  asked for a copy I was told that it was still in draft and had not therefore been sent to the relevant local authorities – so it had not been produced.

So the Midlands pilot has been terminated with no record of the lessons learnt and no subsequent action taken to help partnership working with local authorities.  Where are the “full results”? Where is the “best practice”?

Peter Silverman
29th November 2018


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