I cannot deny that travelling the length and breadth of the country with Ros has been educational. I've already noted that I've learnt about the rural dimension of Party policy, about the problems caused by our internal processes and about how activists locally see the Party nationally.
However, sometimes I learn something of a non-bureaucrat nature. On Friday, Ros and I were taken to see some of the achievements of Teignbridge District Council, now Liberal Democrat led. Our guide was Leader of the Council, Cllr Alan Connett, and our first stop was the Recycling Centre.
Teignbridge residents now recycle 56% of their waste, and we got to meet some of the key staff, as well as Cllr Gordon Hook, the Executive Member who leads on recycling. I was particularly impressed by the work done in schools to encourage children to play a role in encouraging household recycling, with collection vehicles named by different schools, and pictures created by children placed on the side of them. One particularly nice touch is that there are big signs on the sides of every collection vehicle thanking residents for their achievements and telling them how well they are doing.
There is genuine enthusiasm for improving those figures, and all of this without moving towards mandatory recycling, something that has been introduced by other councils. Best of all, their efforts contribute towards reducing the costs of landfill to the residents.
There is an interesting twist though. Teignbridge is one of very few, if any, local authorities to bring their waste management back in-house. It was their view that the original contract was poorly delivered and, when the opportunity arose to retender, they discovered that they could undercut the best private sector bid by £750,000. They now have the flexibility to try new ideas without having to constantly renegotiate.
Sometimes, it isn't public or private, it's about what actually works...