A SENIOR councillor has denied opposition accusations that she blamed New Forest residents for the district’s flagging recycling rates.
Cllr Alison Hoare, the Conservative cabinet member in charge of waste collection at the district council, told a meeting she was “unsure” why the figures were stuck despite exhorting households to sort more of their rubbish.
Her comments came as NFDC’s annual performance report showed it had missed its target of sending 35% of residents’ waste for recycling in 2018/19.
Instead it recorded 33.6% – worse than the 34% it reached in 2017/18 and leaving NFDC close to the bottom of the national recycling league table.
Cllr Hoare was challenged on her department’s performance by Liberal Democrat Cllr Malcolm Wade during a full meeting of NFDC at its Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.
She replied: “We have always promoted recycling and at the moment there’s more will from the people. I think people understand that we have only one world and they understand the importance.
“I am unsure why our recycling is static, to be honest. We have constantly promoted it. We have been out there and engaged.”
Cllr Hoare’s response was attacked afterwards by Lib Dem Cllr Philip Dowd, who said: “She appears to think that the appallingly low figure of 34% is down to people in the New Forest not being aware of the issue.
“If other councils can manage closer to 60%, why has our rate remained below the already pathetically low 35% target level?
“Wandering round local fetes exhorting people to recycle, as she mentioned during the council meeting, is not a viable approach.”
But Cllr Hoare denied blaming residents and told the A&T local people were “engaged and keen to recycle”.
She said: “I think it can be confusing for residents when there are 39 different recycling schemes around the country and some packaging says it can be recycled when in fact we don’t recycle it. This leads to contamination of our recycling.”
NFDC has the duty of collecting waste from more than 80,000 households in the district, with Hampshire County Council responsible for disposal. The overall system is run through Project Integra, a partnership of all Hampshire’s councils.
Cllr Hoare also told the meeting on Monday that she was looking to “start from scratch” on a brand new waste strategy in response to government demands for local authorities to boost recycling rates to 50% by 2020.
As reported in the A&T, in March she refused to rule out the controversial idea of introducing wheelie bins. Some hate their looks but others welcome the protection for rubbish bags from livestock and birds.
Cllr Hoare told councillors: “We have towns, coastal and inland, villages, rural properties down gravel tracks and, of course, our wonderful ponies, donkeys, cattle and pigs who roam the national park and who present their own challenges with regard to waste management.
“I want to look at our waste strategy as a blank piece of paper, so we create a new strategy that is fitting and works for the whole district.”
She added that recycling rates in Hampshire and across England had been static in recent years, and pointed to NFDC’s introduction of a glass collection scheme as evidence of its efforts.
Announcing a working group of councillors to develop proposals, she also invited Cllr Wade to join.
NFDC’s annual performance report, which contained the recycling figures, detailed how it had also saved 321 households from homelessness, carried out 380 food inspections, removed 100 abandoned vehicles and awarded almost £500,000 of grants to 14 local not-for-profit groups.
NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman said: “I am really proud of what our staff and services have achieved in the past year, often with limited resources, for our residents.
“We continue to focus on what is important to our communities.”