Working together – the key for industry and local government

This week’s guest bloggers are Councillor Paul Barrington-King and Paul Vanston of the Kent Waste Partnership (KWP). The maturity of the KWP approach shows us the way forward for the UK. I highly commend their activities and welcome their participation here.

Thanks again

Dick Searle

By Councillor Paul Barrington-King and Paul Vanston, Kent Waste Partnership

Councillor Paul Barrington-King

Councillor Paul Barrington-King.

Paul Vanston, Kent Waste Partnership

Paul Vanston, Kent Waste Partnership

Last month gave us at the Kent Waste Partnership the opportunity to address The Packaging Federation Council on timely matters of mutual interest and concern.

The Packaging Federation and the Kent Waste Partnership are enjoying a relationship that has developed over the last four years: It started with Dick Searle and Paul Vanston finding they were in agreement on issues discussed at meetings with Defra. It has progressed to seeking to tackle issues of national impact, including joining up our resources on key projects.

In the past four years the Kent Waste Partnership has also been working closely with the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN); developing relationships with the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and other key organisations. Our common aim and purpose has been to develop and foster a joint understanding on the issues of ‘materials security’, and how we achieve this security together and across the supply chain.

In the present time these relationships have now evolved into a willingness to work jointly on issues of common concern. This is particularly the case when we all come to the myths and incorrect perceptions held on ‘packaging’ by various audiences; public, media and political. Re-aligning these perceptions with reality and the truth about materials, recycling and waste management is a clear objective we need to all achieve.

The KWP said as much in our response to Defra’s recent consultation exercise on the UK’s materials recycling targets. We said then, and believe now, that shifting such misperceptions involves ‘seeing packaging not as an enemy of the UK’s Green Economy, but as a major contributor to it.’

And when it comes to the role of councillors and public servants working together – as in this particular communication and our attendance at the PF Council Meeting – a key KWP aim is to be seen offering high quality engagement and understanding of industry needs.

For example, the election of councillors to their councils is the single biggest injection of private sector talent into local government. This is an important bridge between councils and the business community, and helps get the best out of local and national relationships – such as that between the PF and the KWP. There is always opportunity to cross-fertilise and make use of best business and industrial practices.

That was ably demonstrated at our meeting with the PF as we were  able to relate our vision for the KWP as an organisation that works with the supply chain as a whole in order to achieve the overall levels of material security that the UK needs.

The challenge for both our sectors therefore – for both business and local government – is to nurture talent, create opportunities, and achieve more than we did before.  It is also essential for all the parties to continue to work together.

2012 needs to be a year of turning extensive national debate into real achievements. Our hope at the KWP is we can continue working with the PF and its members.  We look forward to further joint thinking, planning, and delivery of projects that make a difference.

A numbers game

Dick SearleBy now you will, no doubt, have seen coverage of the Government’s recent consultation about the UK’s recycling targets.

My current concern is not so much with the outcomes but with the way the whole process was managed. It was described as consultation but the net experience was anything but.

To wind back just a little: The Packaging Federation was one of a number of trade bodies invited to take part in the Defra exercise: We speak for an industry that employs over 85,000 individuals in the UK – some 15,000 more than those in UK pharmaceutical manufacturing. We accordingly made our points to Defra earlier this year and more than once. Our thinking also won the unconditional support of the APPG (the all party MPs group for the industry).

Despite all of that coordination and effort our viewpoint appears to have only carried the same weight in the Defra consultation as the contribution of any one individual, informed on the issues or otherwise.

This method unsurprisingly produces a questionable and unbalanced ‘consultation’. It feels like a triumph of bureaucracy over democracy and it also calls into question the point of any future exercises.

In particular, representative trade and industry organisations such as ourselves will rightly view future participation as a waste of member resources.

I can only plead that if the Government is seriously interested in true consultation – on any topic – then it needs to get a properly devised system into place.

What exists merely does the participants a disservice.

We all need and deserve much better than this.

Many thanks again

Dick Searle