A Dynamic win on waste

The Local Government Association’s LG Challenge 2024 kicked off with a focus on recycling, reuse, and waste in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Jenson Kemp reports.

Newcastle, England's most northerly city, and recently voted the friendliest city in the country, full of proud traditions, naturally gave a very warm welcome to 10 of the local government sector's rising stars in January, and a fantastic start to the LG Challenge 2024.

Run by the Local Government Association (LGA), the LG Challenge develops the next generation of leaders from across local government. Over the next six months, 10 contestants from 10 different local authorities will compete to tackle five real-life challenges in councils across the country. The officers will showcase and develop their skills, while providing innovative solutions to key challenges our councils face every day.

Newcastle City Council's leader, Cllr Nick Kemp, chief executive Pam Smith and Cllr Marion Williams, Cabinet Member for Connected, Clean City, welcomed the contestants and revealed the challenge topic. Each challenge has a different topic for contestants to get to grips with, and challenge one dealt with all things recycling, reuse and waste.

From residents to businesses, Newcastle City Council has ambitions to grow recycling rates, while also encouraging the prevention of waste through reducing consumption and increasing reuse across the city. With climate change high on the agenda and forthcoming changes to legislation, waste – an ever-salient issue for councils – is becoming increasingly more so. Councils across the country are grappling with the same issue that Newcastle posed to the contestants – how can the council use its influence to reduce waste produced in the city, encourage reuse, and maximise recycling?

This was the first time that the cohort had met each other, so there was anticipation to experience an exciting and new way of working – against the clock – with an unfamiliar team, to submit their proposals in just over 24 hours. Jack Pearce from Buckinghamshire Council was chosen as the leader for ‘Team Dynamic' while ‘Team Victorious' chose Martin Chastney from Cheltenham BC, to lead the group in this first challenge.

After digesting the brief, some members of each team were whisked off on a tour of nine areas of the city where Newcastle's strong ties with Norway were felt as Storm Ingunn made for a blustery excursion. The group got to see the city's different sides up close, including both affluent and deprived neighbourhoods, areas with high student populations, and a mix of housing from high density to suburban. This showcased the challenge of waste management across such differing neighbourhoods in the North East's largest city.

The Challenge is a full-on programme for the contestants, who worked into the evening and were up early on day two to prepare their written proposal and presentation. Both teams were given a final chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of officers from waste engagement, planning, policy, communications, and workforce. This gave them some valuable feedback and the chance to refine their innovative solutions ahead of their presentation that afternoon.

Written proposals were submitted, presentations choreographed, it was then time for the teams to face off in the striking council chamber in front of an excited audience of the officers they met across the challenge, and the judging panel of Smith, Williams and the LGA's head of corporate services Claire Holloway.

Team Victorious' pitch included an online ‘cost of waste calculator' to help residents identify savings while also reducing their waste creation based on personal habits including in food purchases, energy bills and sustainable transport. This would be rolled out with QR Code stickers to take residents on a ‘journey to zero waste', with supporting information that help reduce, reuse and recycle.

The judges commended the work of both teams, however Team Dynamic clinched the win this time, with the judges impressed by the boldness and ambition of the policy and resident focused ideas in their engagement strategy. Smith praised how the plans would ‘make recycling exciting and relevant to people's lives.'

Williams said, ‘I noticed how keen the officers were, and we will watch with enthusiasm and interest the rest of the challenge.'

After a whirlwind two days, huge thanks to Newcastle City Council who did a fantastic job in hosting the first Challenge of 2024 and we are excited to see how the cohort's journey unfolds as the programme progresses.

Jenson Kemp is programme support officer, Partners in Care and Health (PCH), at the Local Government Association

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