Author Archives: Iain Coleman

Opinion: Damian McBride and the next coalition

power tripThe effects of Damian McBride’s book on the next election will be negligible. The vast majority of voters simply don’t care.

And to those who do, the vicious way members of the Labour government conducted themselves, and the reckless aggression of their spin doctors and advisers, are hardly news. The general picture was well known before 2010: indeed, Armando Iannucci and Peter Capaldi had been portraying it on screen for five years by then. McBride has added details, but any vote that might have been influenced by it, already has been.

So it won’t change anything on polling day. But what about the day after?

It’s no surprise that pundits like to speculate on the choices the Liberal Democrats would make, in the event that a majority coalition is feasible with either of the larger parties. It may not be the most likely outcome, but it’s the most interesting.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

Opinion: How we made fortnightly bin collections work in Cambridge

There have been horror stories on this site about councils suffering political disasters after introducing fortnightly bin collections. In 2005, Lib Dem-run Cambridge City Council made just such a change, and did so without any apparent political damage. At the time, I was the Executive Councillor responsible for the bins. Here’s how we did it.

In 2004, our doorstep waste and recycling service consisted of a black box for dry recyclables (paper, aluminium cans and so forth), a green bin for compostable waste (garden waste, vegetable peelings and the like) and a black bin for everything else. The black box and green bin were collected fortnightly, on alternate weeks, and the black bin was collected weekly.

The following year, we moved to a new system of alternate weekly collections. In week one, the black bin and black box were collected. In week two, the green bin was collected, along with a new blue box for recyclable plastics.

These are the key reasons why the change worked:

• The black box and green bin recycling system was well established. Residents had got used to recycling, and many of them found that their black bin was less than half full each week before we switched to fortnightly collections. This meant there was a substantial chunk of residents for who the proposed change didn’t seem like a big deal (and who were happy to get their new plastic recycling service). It’s much easier to establish an effective recycling culture first, then switch to fortnightly collections, than to try to bring it all in at once.

• We introduced the change in autumn, so that if we did have problems with uncollected or fly-tipped waste, at least it wouldn’t be lying around in the summer heat. Making these changes in spring/summer is just asking for trouble.

• We invested the bulk of the saving from moving to fortnightly collections in a new recycling service that was in high public demand: doorstep collection of recyclable plastics. This hadn’t been part of the original plan: it came out of a public consultation about how to go about implementing alternate weekly collections, in which we had taken the opportunity to ask some general questions about recycling as well. It turned out 78% of respondents wanted doorstep plastics recycling. I tasked officers with finding a way of achieving this for less money than we would save with the switch to fortnightly collections: to their credit, they managed it. This meant we weren’t just taking something away from residents: we were providing something they really wanted at the same time.

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments
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