THE voluntary sector across Cumbria is being asked to take on a much bigger role in recycling following council cutbacks.

The announcement also comes as the county council gears up for a raft of new Government legislation intended to ensure recycling targets are hit post-Brexit.

The top tier authority agreed this week to a series of recommendations to create closer working between the public sector and the third sector.

The initiative to reduce the volume of household waste destined for landfill will see more recycling responsibilities delegated to local committees, district councils, charities and voluntary groups.

Coun Neil Hughes, who was on the Task and Finish Group which made the recommendations, said: “Unfortunately continuing austerity and the need to retrench (cut costs) has meant that some of the valuable activities that had previously taken place within Cumbria are no longer happening.

“We wanted to try to ensure that members of the public and those on low incomes did have access to a service that would benefit them, help them make the best use of materials they might want to dispose of and that the environment would be served.

“The voluntary sector already communicates (with the council) quite a bit.

“There used to be a reuse forum across the country. We would have liked to have seen something like that begin again. We thought the council could play a role in encouraging that to happen.

“Local Committees already do take action in terms of trying to promote re-use and recycling and indeed in involving the voluntary sector.”

Under the plans, the top tier authority’s waste team will work more closely with the Cumbria Council for Voluntary Services which coordinates charities and volunteer groups county-wide to set up a reuse forum.

The new drive for a greener Cumbria will also include the roll out of initiatives in schools and will involve the Youth Parliament.

Council Leader Stewart Young said: “I do hope that local committees do engage with this. They have a general provision and could still do some of these things by prioritising their own resources, for example through grants to third sector organisations. I would also encourage them to work with their local district and borough councils because we do pay a significant amount of money to the district and borough councils in the form of recycling credits – several million pounds I believe.”

The recommendations agreed included:

The possible introduction of an “exchange system” at council-run household waste recycling centres”. Councillors stressed that fresh arrangements like this would need to be “negotiated” and could not simply be imposed at local tips.

Councillors wanted to re-introduce the Waste Prevention Fund. But following advice form officers, this was noted only. Despite the fact it had been “highly effective” in the past, the council would not be able to re-introduce this without “finding an alternative budget saving to replace it. The waste prevention team will urge the voluntary sector to beef up its recycling.

Local committees will be asked to take a more “proactive role” in promoting recycling benefits and opportunities.

The council will work with CumbriaCouncil for Voluntary Services to establish a “reuse forum” made up of third sector organisations.

The council aims to develop an “internal engagement programme” looking activities carried out by the council and what more they can do to tackle issues including single use plastics.