Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC) Performance
When people ask me what MHDC do, I often quip that we look after the planning and the bins! However, the District Council does so much more than this. The Council should be a leader in the community for improving local democracy – we run all the councils from Parliament to the humble village parish council. We engage with Schools to encourage participation, and around four years ago placed improving the environment at the heart of all we do. We have a large number of local hero Councillors of all political colours, who do huge amounts for their community, but I thought it might be worth looking at the basic. What MHDC should be doing.
Planning is a huge issue for local residents. In 2015, MHDC implemented the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) to demonstrate a 5 year housing land supply, and to ensure that local residents had the highest say in new housing schemes. The plan ran out in 2020, and unfortunately the update to the plan is now three years late. This means that MHDC cannot show a 5 year Housing land supply, and the developers have the upper hand in planning now. It is harder now than ever to protect the AONB and the Countryside.
Planning at MHDC is in crisis. In 2019, the new leadership at MHDC declared a climate crisis, and prioritized the environment over planning. Since then, major planning applications determined within 13 weeks has dropped from a high of 93%, to a new low last quarter of 78%. This means that locals are blighted by planning applications which are taking too long to be determined.
The Crisis has extended to enforcement, where the notices issued has dropped from a high of 24 in 2019, to 5 last year. Errant landowners who abuse planning rules are getting away with it!
This would be understood if the Council was over-delivering on the environment, but unfortunately, these targets are also being missed. Household waste recycled and composted has actually dropped about 2 percentage points over the last couple of years. Last year we recycled 40.8%, compared to an England average of 44.6%. This was way behind Wales which is recycling a fantastic 56.7%. Instead of being a beacon environmental council, we are one of the worst!
MHDC also collects Council tax on behalf of the County Council, the police, and parish Councils. Again, the performance here has dropped from a high of 99% of council tax collected, down to 96% last year. By Q1 this year, only 28% of Council tax had been collected, which was lower even than the record low delivered last year.
This year we have a new council, and we need to concentrate on the key Council responsibilities.
On Planning, we need to deliver on the updated SWDP. This is the most important thing the Council can do to protect the countryside, and to protect the environment.
We should be making it easier to recycle, not harder. Removing traditional bottle banks and replacing them with rows of yellow dustbins is the wrong signal to send. We use more plastic in the bins, and it costs more to take the bottles away as the fill up more frequently. We should offer a full range of recycling bins across the district, and introduce recycling on the streets with mixed rubbish bins.
For the economy, we should be working with our tourism businesses to increase the number of visitors, promoting the Malvern’s as a the best staycation spot in the UK. By increasing footfall, and by increasing the average spend, we will grow our economy. We will be able to pay our people more, and fund our businesses to become more Green.
To support the world getting to Net Zero by 2050, we should consider supporting Green Industry in the district. We should extend the Science Park to support industries that will help us get to Net Zero. It will also provide great jobs for our young people.
By focusing on our core priorities, we can deliver great services for our residents, and support Net Zero.