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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 without any report being 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.

and

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.

In April 2017 the governments Litter Strategy for England they wrote on page 57:

As set out in its 2016‐17 Delivery Plan, Highways England is to launch a Litter Collaboration Pack which will help formalise working relationships and facilitate better co‐ordination of litter clearing operations.68

Tackling Litter Together
In December 2015, Highways England’s Midlands region signed a partnership agreement with a number of local authorities in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, formalising their collaborative approach to tackling litter together. This has helped ensure safety standards are met. Working in partnership has delivered an additional 24 tonnes of litter collected from a number of trunk roads in the region. The aim is for all parties to share resources and equipment while supporting each other to improve the sweeping and cleaning of trunk roads across their counties and districts.

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

On 22nd November I was sent a redacted copy of the Midlands agreement entitled “Highways Cleansing Protocol”. I was told  that the Midlands pilot had been superseded by a nationally consistent approach.

However it was not until  January 2019 that the HE reluctantly admitted that they did not hold any reports etc looking at the progress being made / lessons learnt from its application.

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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