As the government makes the first moves in relaxing the lockdown there will be many difficult decisions to be made. Everyone is trying to prevent a new surge in COVID-19 while allowing the economy to recover, but the messages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now all slightly different.
That reflects local decisions based on local circumstances and it may be that what happens in different parts of England could also vary as things progress.
This week in Cheltenham, we reopened the Household Recycling Centre at Swindon Road. It was initially closed along with the vast majority of HRC’s in the country as it was impossible to ensure appropriate distancing. Ubico, the council-owned company that collects our rubbish, put all their effort in to keeping the kerbside collection going. They have done a remarkable job in achieving that despite all the difficulties not least a big increase in rubbish collected with so many more people at home all day.
Over the last few weeks we have been working out how the HRC could reopen safely. It is something the government has been encouraging but made clear residents should only take waste to the HRC if it cannot be stored safely at home with no alternative ways to dispose of it.
Ubico have the right number of staff with the right equipment as well as applying restrictions to try and prevent too many people turning up at once. It was also done at the same time as the county council reopened their HRC’s at Hempsted and Wingmore. As with everything else, it also relies on the goodwill and common sense of people using the site. So far things are going well.
The HRC is a valued service but currently costs thousands a week extra to run safely. It is just a small part of what we as a council aim to do to help with the recovery process locally but that will depend on government honouring their promise of continuing support for local government or there will be more tough decisions on what we stop doing.