On Thursday 30th January, the Conservatives once again showed their true, narrow-minded, partisan colours by following the party whip to reject a modest proposal to improve recycling in South Kesteven. It’s pathetic that despite their empty rhetoric about putting politics aside, and caring about the Climate Emergency, South Kesteven Tories couldn’t bring themselves to support an opposition motion aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
I had submitted a motion to the Full Council meeting suggesting that charitable organisations be given permission to put just four textile recycling banks on Council-owned sites across the District. This would generate a financial income for the council and the charity, it would give people additional places to donate old clothes and shoes to charity and it would reduce contamination in the silver wheelie bins (currently around 30%).
In proposing the motion I explained that working with charities in this way would involve no council expenditure, rather it would generate revenue. At least one council in Lincolnshire earns an income of over £10,000 through charity textiles recycling. Furthermore the tonnages would be added to the council’s Waste Data Flow which would bolster the council’s falling recycling rates.
By the time the vote was taken in the late afternoon, many of the Conservatives had already sloped off home. Of those who had remained, all but one voted against textiles recycling (the ‘rebel’ was Cllr Jane Kingman who abstained). All the Independents, Lib-Dems and Labour members voted in favour of the motion which was lost by 24 votes to 14.
People who heard news of the vote via social media have already asked me why the Conservatives would vote against such a simple, straightforward measure. Well, you would be surprised how many spurious arguments can be invented. These included: the idea that 30% of the clothes might ultimately end up in African landfill sites (albeit after they have resold and reused by people in Africa); residents might accuse the council of stealing income from charities; I had failed to prove any evidence of demand (even though a textile bank recently installed at a small church in the Deepings has generate over a tonne of recycling in just six months); textile recycling facilities already exist at the County household waste sites (one in Bourne and one in Grantham which are only open four days a week). Leading the charge were the Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Peter Moseley (Con) in whom I was quite surprised because, on the Tory benches, he is leading the council’s climate change agenda. Maybe that’s why he didn’t hang around for the vote? The other leading naysayer was Cllr Chris Benn (Con) who is currently Chair of the Environment Committee. He claimed to have consulted town councils about the idea of recycling banks although none of the town councillors in the room had any recollection of such discussion. A special mention must go to Cllr Nikki Manterfield (Con) who abstained when the issue was discussed by the Environment Committee but voted against at Full Council. She made a short speech which was the first time I have ever heard her actively participate in a Full Council debate in the five years since we were both first elected.
The real reason the Tories voted against the initiative was obvious. They can’t bear the thought of an opposition member having a good idea. It was exactly the same with my motion calling for a ‘Charter for Trees’ last year which was rejected by the Conservatives at Full Council but then adopted a few weeks later when it was ‘their idea’. Members’ ward budgets was a similar story. Sadly, I doubt it will be the last time the Tories reject a good idea just because it came from an unexpected direction.
Here is the detail of my proposal to the Council:
“1. The Council shall seek to enter into partnership with charitable textiles recycling organisations to install at least four textiles recycling banks on Council-owned land. This will include at least one charity textile recycling bank in each of the four urban settlements (Grantham, Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings).
2. The scheme will be reviewed after six months by the Environment OSC who will make recommendations based on the merits and recycling rates of each collection bank.
Any income generated from the provision of the banks will be ring-fenced for the promotion of recycling activities.”