Thoughts from last week’s LARAC conference…
Last week saw our Director, Paul, and myself at the well-attended and ever-popular LARAC conference in Birmingham. A great forum to keep up to date with topical local authority waste management issues (of which there are plenty this year, thanks to the national Resources & Waste Strategy), as well as to catch up with old (some less old!) associates and network with new contacts.
This year we went to both days of the conference, enjoying the high quality presentations on Day 1 and the workshops on Day 2. Embracing public transport and its associated challenges led me to miss the opening address and a large part of Defra’s update on the Strategy and Environment Bill. However, like the majority of the audience, I welcomed the repeated assurances in the Q&A sessions that local authorities will be reimbursed for appropriate service changes made to meet the Strategy, and that flexibility for local circumstances will be allowed. On behalf of our public sector clients, we eagerly await developments in this area. I particularly enjoyed the “Strategy Question Time” session as it is pertinent to much of our work at the moment. In particular, the constant state of flux with national policy and strategy, and how this is impacting our clients’ own waste strategies and developments of their waste collection services. The discussion suggested that perhaps constant change is the ‘new norm’ and we need to adapt to this mindset accordingly – while this is certainly a challenge for justifying long term investments and for easy communications with residents, it does put a different spin on things.
Day 2 started with me attending a workshop by WRAP, pub quiz style: “Are you strategy ready?” – a fun approach that we may very well borrow in our future workshops. This set me up nicely for the day, not least because the team I was on with representatives from Hackney, Greenwich and Cheshire East, won the quiz despite fervent ‘internet based cheating’ by other groups!
Paul and I ran a workshop on “Commercialisation of local authority waste services”. This was incredibly well-attended, which perhaps says something for the issues of interest to local authorities at this point in time. We introduced the workshop with a suite of examples of commercial approaches by local authorities, before breaking out into groups to identify key opportunities for expanding commercial waste services, and finally a discussion of barriers and solutions. We livened things up by giving each group a random ‘wild card’ during the discussion, with potential real life issues such as driver availability, national policy developments and market competition developments.
Key opportunities identified by the workshop delegates included:
• Building on the local authority reputation and resources – moving away from fixed pricing, linking into the domestic communications campaigns, etc;
• Offering a wide choice of services including food waste collection – taking advantage of the position of the local authority being the first to know about new businesses through NNDR etc;
• Diversification of services outside of waste collection (e.g. bin washing);
• Cross-selling through other areas of the council services; and
• Making the most of opportunities to service local events, and ensuring capture of holiday homes, Air b’n’b, etc.
A plethora of barriers were identified in the workshop, which included competitor-related challenges, overcoming restrictions on staff employment terms (e.g. commission-based rewards), balancing supply and demand, and understanding capacity restrictions. These barriers were counterbalanced well by suggestions of robust solutions, namely developing a more commercial attitude to the service delivery, developing a thorough business case and setting the service in the context of the wider environment / carbon strategies already in place in the council. Despite the almost unbearable high temperatures in the workshop room, there was plenty of lively discussion.
So, all in all an enjoyable couple of days!
If you would like an informal chat on any aspect of your waste services, please give us a call on 01746 552423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org