OPINION: A personal initiative goes national!

Cllr Anthony Negus has written about how the role of a councillor can help bring together supermarkets and councils to improve the city’s environment.

His full blog is below:

As the Lib Dem councillor for Cotham ward I have a lot of experience and scars of dealing with waste and blocked roads in my area. I have also been involved in countless initiatives to help sustain local shopping streets and increase the number of independent traders.

I recently wrote to all eight major supermarket chains to ask about their procedures regarding packaging, food waste and distribution. I received a number of replies of varying interest resulting in a meeting with one of the chains. As chair of Bristol City Council’s Neighbourhood Scrutiny Commission I felt that this information needed extensive consideration. As a result I obtained cross-party agreement for a more detailed discussion regarding the role of supermarkets in our city, in the form of a Select Committee. The original questions I had sent to the supermarket chains were finessed and all eight national supermarkets replied to a wide range of questions and two attended the Select Committee evidence-gathering session.

It became clear that all chains had broadly similar aspirations about:

  • reducing packaging and making it cleverer;
  • minimising food waste; and
  • improving distribution to those in need and better disposal methods

The chains were however less sure of improvements to how products were distributed to their stores and particularly to the increasing pressures caused by the uptake of home delivery systems. Some would have benefited from learning from others and most may have found merit in direct or third-party co-option.

When I asked those attending when they had last met with Bristol City Council to discuss mutual interest the answer was sadly ‘never’. I therefore obtained a resolution from the Neighbourhood Scrutiny Commission that this obvious deficiency be remedied as soon as possible and this was taken on board by Bristol City Council.

I then learned that there was to be a meeting of the Core Cities and, with cross-party agreement, negotiated for the successful model I initiated as chair of the Neighbourhoods Commission be advised to delegates to follow. As a result of my endeavours the Core City meeting resolved that it should also meet with representatives of all the major supermarkets to discuss mutual interest and environmental improvements.

This is a clear indication of how individual councillors can drive forward city-wide initiatives and campaigns and turn personal ideas into lasting improvement for all residents. This also characterises the way the previous Liberal Democrat administration identified major need, such as making Bristol more investable, more sustainable and fairer for all of its citizens. In six years we had to turn round the way the city worked with its business and voluntary partners.

This city is again crying out for that vision and the determination to deliver it. This can only be done if there is greater cooperation between the major supermarkets and local councils, at first just locally but then nationally. This will hopefully drive out savings to all parties; to the benefit of taxpayers, to reduce wasteful duplication and to maximise environmental improvement by minimising those elements of the system which create the most intractable problems.

This was a very successful outcome for all and yet another example that Lib Dem councillors work hard all year round, not just at election time.

Cllr Anthony Negus, Lib Dem councillor for Cotham Ward

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