On a scale from zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars. The civic amenity and recycling sites are accessible and well run. Working with the district councils in Essex on recycling schemes also helped the Council achieve its statutory recycling target a year early.
'Essex County Council has continued to improve its recycling rates across the county. There are plans in place to help waste management continue to improve and I am encouraged by the approach shown. However, there are a number of challenges still to overcome. Costs are high and rose faster than targeted last year, and firm proposals are still required to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.'
The inspectors found:
.The relationship between the County Council and the district councils has improved. Joint initiatives, such as the Essex nappy campaign, educational and promotional work, and joint funding have all helped to increase the amount of waste sent for recycling.
.Between April 2004 and March 2005, 30 per cent of household waste was recycled or composted. The County Council-controlled civic amenity sites have been improved following feedback from users, and now recycle 58 per cent of the household waste they receive.
.There is a clear commitment to increase the amount of waste recycled and to reduce reliance on landfill, in line with government targets. The County Council and its partners are looking to find the best way of achieving this, but have yet to come up with firm proposals.
To help the service improve, inspectors recommended that the Council should continue to concentrate on how waste should be disposed of in the future. This will ensure that the Council minimises the amount it will send to landfill and that all those involved in waste management are clear on the implications of this and the way it will be achieved.
Essex County Council manages the disposal of household and other waste collected by the district councils as well as its 23 recycling centres and 12 closed landfill sites. It undertakes a range of activities in partnership with the district councils including promotion of waste awareness and the development of a countywide waste management strategy.
There are 37 staff employed within the waste and recycling branch of the County Council. The service spends£37 million, which includes a£400,000 commitment to the development of the waste strategy and receives an income of£1.4 million from trade waste (revenue budget for 2005/06). In 2005/06 the Council received almost£3 million funding from external sources, including DEFRA, WRAP and the Essex Environment Trust.
Essex County Council is rated as a four-star council, following theAudit Commission's Comprehensive Performance Assessment. CPA measures how well councils are delivering services for local people and communities, while reducing the overall regulatory burden on them. It distils a complex set of judgements on local authority bodies and the services they provide into one easily understood rating.
Copies of the report are available from the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk