Nick Kemp, Council cabinet member, has established a Waste Commission of industry leaders to make recommendations to the Council by the end of 2017. The Commission's first meeting was on Friday 17th March, and included a bus tour to visit the Byker Reclamation Plant and some of Heaton's back lanes. Details of when and where this meeting was held, or how citizens could observe it (or even contribute to it), were not advertised.
Future meetings are due to be held in Newcastle in May and September (both on Fridays), and in London in April and July (in order to "get the views of key decision makers and business nationally"). See first news release for what we know so far, and details of the Waste Commission members. Made in Tyne and Wear's news report on the first meeting is below.
Our first response to the Commission was sent to the Cabinet member involved (Nick Kemp) and the Chair of the Commission (Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water). We welcomed the establishment of the Commission and expressed an eagerness to engage with the Commission by making representations to it. We made two specific requests for publication:
We also sounded notes of caution.
Sadly, the Council's reply to our response was wholly negative, objecting to our constructive criticism of the way that the Waste Commission has been established so far, and failing to answer our two requests for publication. We are sorry that the Council has responded in this petty political way to our first approach, but we will continue to emphasise the primacy of waste Reduction and Re-Use, and to promote the valuable lessons from the BAN Waste Select Committee. This was the country's first ever Parliamentary-style Select Committee enquiry to be led by local citizens, informed by evidence, and to set standards in publication of evidence which remained unbeaten until the Hutton Inquiry of 2003.
BAN Waste (the Byker and Newcastle Waste Working Group) grew out of a campaign against an incinerator in Byker - see video above for the fuller story. The original BAN Waste website is still available, but dynamic content is no longer working online (including copies of all the expert evidence, minutes of meetings and the Select Committee reports). We hope to get this content back online shortly. Meanwhile, the following reports from the BAN Waste Select Committee are available from this page (ignore all links to banwaste.org.uk, which now belongs to a commercial waste management company):
Epidemiological studies into the ash from the Byker plant (which was infamously spread on allotments and footpaths across the city, eventually being removed by Council workers wearing full protective clothing following years of community campaigning) were carried out by Newcastle University, into dioxin levels within vegetable samples and footpaths and soil samples. An Independent consultant's commentary is also available.
BAN Waste, its Select Committee hearings and Community Events set standards for public participation and transparency which we hope that Nick Kemp's new Waste Commission will learn from. To quote from the first chair of the Select Committee, Andrew Bennett MP (Labour, Denton and Reddish, 1974-2005):
People have votes. The disposable nappy, their newspaper, bottles, dog and cat litter - where they decide to cast their vote will decide the Waste Strategy (ie democracy). The purpose of the interim report, therefore, is to inform and educate and present people with choices. These will be evaluated and subject to public discussion, before we come to the final part of the inquiry.