Minister on mission to study shared services

A GOVERNMENT Minister has visited North Yorkshire as part of a fact-finding mission to see how local authorities are attempting to increase recycling and improve refuse collections while battling to curb costs.

The district councils covering Richmondshire and Hambleton have launched a pioneering scheme to merge services – including refuse collections and computer systems. It is one of the first of its type in the country and aims to save up to 650,000 over three years.

Lord Henley, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was in Richmond to see how rural councils deal with the growing need to boost recycling rates to avoid paying millions of pounds in landfill taxes.

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He also visited the councils' shared chief executive, Peter Simpson, to discuss how the merger of services was achieved.

Richmondshire District Council's leader, Councillor Fleur Butler, said: "It is a huge compliment to Richmondshire and Hambleton district councils that he chose to come to see us – and how we deal with waste and recycling issues.

"We explained to him that in rural areas we have a unique set of issues – for example a large capacity refuse wagon cannot be used in country lanes, unlike in urban communities.

"And once collected, there is not a ready market for recyclate in North Yorkshire so our recycling costs are higher as we transport it to recycling plants.

"We believe it's vital that we look to local solutions not nationally imposed ones - we need to deliver solutions that suit our environment.

"Lord Henley was hugely impressed with how the two councils had rationalised their delivery patterns and made efficiencies across both authorities while still delivering a service that local people want."