What the new Government means for Britain's waste industry
As with any major political upheaval, there are positives and negatives to our new Conservative Government.
The reshuffle has, as always, caused much opinion-airing and no appointment more so than the return to parliament of Michael Gove, this time as Environment Secretary. An MP who consistently attracts contention, his reappointment unsurprisingly garnered strong reactions from the public and media alike. One thing I like about him is that he does get things done – just maybe not in the way you want them done and he is quite controversial in that respect.
The other view is that change will take more regulation as the Conservatives did not have a sufficient majority to get policies through. The resulting deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) worries me – in particular for the waste industry – because we are not aligned on environmental issues.
The biggest red card the alliance throws up for me is our differing stances on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), initiated to help businesses, public sector and other non-domestic organisations meet the cost of installing renewable heat technologies – therefore reducing the UK's carbon emissions.
The RHI is a dirty word in Northern Ireland and raises different connotations there than in the rest of the UK. I think the DUP will hold the sway of the Conservatives in the UK and stunt any progress.
Gove is capable of delivering good change, but whether it is within his gift to do that is another matter. And with a very low number of seats, anything controversial will struggle to get through – especially with the DUP sitting there. The DUP is a definite negative in terms of our industry.
My second big concern is that all the good work done by the EFRA Committee, members of which came to visit our plant in Mitcham after we gave evidence at its hearing earlier this year, will be lost as a result of a lack of direction. Pre-vote, I was disappointed to find that none of the manifestos stood out on the subject of sustainability, food waste, recycling and even green economy plans in general. They were bland and boring and they all missed the clear opportunity to refer to the EFRA report. Will its actions be fulfilled? Any remote mentions were so top line and non-committal that the future of the green economy very much hangs in the balance.
I think it all comes down to whether this is a battle that the Government really wants to have. Were it not for the DUP, I’d have more confidence in the new Government pushing good things through for the industry, but I’m certain some things won’t be mentioned and one will be RHI.
I also believe, as do many people, that Theresa May will be unable to hold power until the next election. It will be a matter of by-elections, which usually go against the Government, meaning the Tories will lose more seats.
Uncertainty is the overriding message. It’s like a game of football – you’re one-nil up and then one of your players is sent off. From then on all you want to do is defend your lead and that is what is happening here – it is defensive playing on the part of the waste industry.
I don’t feel that the new Government is necessarily detrimental to the waste industry, but neither will progress happen – it isn’t making the noises we’d like to hear.Paul Killoughery