Thursday, November 23, 2006

Coventry City Council

Generally, local government is a Good Thing. Most people agree that having decisions made within the communities they are going to affect is the way forward. Please either accept this statement or suspend your unbelief for the purposes of that which follows.

Coventry City Council is stark staring mad.

Let me give two examples.

My daughter B is currently in year 2. It so happens that in the village where we live, we have a different school for reception - year 2 and year 3-year 6. These are colloquially known as 'the Infants' and 'the Juniors' respectively. In most of Coventry, there is only one school for reception through to year 6.

Anyway, last week we were sent a Brown Envelope by the Infants school. Within the envelope was an application form for the Junior School together with a brochure about schools in Coventry. The form makes clear that this is an application form for the Junior School, but also that places are not automatic nor guaranteed. The brochure states that parents should apply for three schools and that steps will be made to try to ensure the child has a place at the closest school. Yet there is only space on the form for one school.

I interrogate the officer at the phone number given on the form. Apparently the brochure is given to all parents who apply for schools in the reception year. The expectation is that we will send B to the Junior school, so there is no point applying for any other schools.

So - what exactly is the point of sending me an application form and a brochure when I can chose from a wide selection of one school*? I think they're just doing it to collect handwriting or fingerprints or something. I guess the main thing I object to is conforming to something that resembles parential choice in all respects other than actually giving you a choice. Here is a bunch of hoops we want you to jump through to give you permission to do something you would do anyway. It is a good job I don't have anything else to do other than to fill your forms in, eh?

Example 2. For some years, all the municipal household waste within Coventry City Council boundaries has been sent to a medium sized incinerator in Coventry. This waste incinerator is jointly owned by Coventry City Council and the neighbouring Solihull Metropolitan District Council. The incinerator is nearing the end of its life and so the councils will have to make a decision soon about longterm waste policy. The noises at the moment suggest that they are going to build an even bigger incinerator, possibly to include the waste from the large-but-less populated Warwickshire County Council.

Local campaigners have been recently lobbying the council to increase its pathetic level of recycling - which at present is one of the lowest in the country. The council responds that it would be impossible as a relevant reprocessor could only be found in Liverpool - and think of all the environmental damage that would be done if we road transported it there, eh? And actually that isn't true. We have reprocessors locally in the West Midlands.

The truth is that Coventry City Council doesn't really want to do any recycling. It is easier and cheaper to chuck mostly unsorted waste into an incinerator (even when it is running at a very low efficiency as it is at present) than to take time to find value in our waste. You hardly need to be a genius to realise that less waste = less fuel for the incinerator = lower efficiency = less money when the council tries to sell off the incinerator.

I am not saying that there are not times when an incinerator might not be appropriate - we are unlikely to be able to recycle everything any time soon - but really.

* actually it appears to be even more complicated than this. When I ask whether I can apply for another local school, which is a combined Infant-Junior school, I am told that I can but this is not a normal proceedure and we probably wouldn't get a place.


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