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Soapbox: Funding needed to keep Britain's open spaces clean and litter-free
Bill Bryson, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, argues against cuts to the Tidy Britain budget...
You may not know this but the Campaign to Protect Rural England has campaigned against litter since its inception in 1926. The era and causes were different but the result was the same - England's beautiful landscapes and waterways blighted by ugly, unnecessary litter.
Around the same time, the American President Calvin Coolidge was heard to say - although not by me, just to be clear: "Those who trust to chance must abide by the results of chance". When I read this recently I thought it rather sums up the Government's approach to how it deals with litter.
At the same time as announcing it is committed to 'working to reduce litter', it has cut Keep Britain Tidy's budget by 90% and resisted every sensible solution it's been presented with this year. It essentially seems to be willing to take a chance on Keep Britain Tidy finding replacement funding; to take a chance on local councils being able to keep paying close to £1bn in clean-up costs at the same time as suffering large cuts to their budgets; and to take a chance on campaigning groups such as CPRE giving up in the face of persistent political apathy and going away.
The Government talks often of the importance of changing people's behaviour - the carrot rather than the stick approach - but it demonstrates little leadership or commitment when it comes to implementing solutions. Its most oft made statement this year is that it will 'monitor' the efforts and solutions of other countries or agencies. It has offered no statement on how long it will be monitoring for, just that it will be monitoring. You might have guessed that I find this extremely frustrating.
So, our mission for 2013 is all too clear. Let us recap.
- We will continue to campaign for the law relating to littering from vehicles to be changed, so that it's no longer a consequence-free crime.
- We will campaign to get as much litter from our roadsides collected by those agencies, paid for by public money, that have a legal responsibility to do so but who currently fail to.
- We will continue to campaign for the introduction of a 5p charge on all single-use carrier bags in England.
- We will continue to support all the litterpicking groups on our LitterAction website. With nearly 100,000 bags collected, these groups are making a fantastic contribution to tackling the problem.
- We will continue to campaign for a UK-wide deposit refund scheme for drinks containers.
- And most importantly, we're not going to give up and go away. We will continue to keep the issue of litter on the Government's agenda.
With a nod to Calvin Coolidge, there is no chance we will leave the future and beauty of England's countryside to chance.
10th January 2013