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23 June 2011

MPA Proposes New Sustainability Partnership with Government and Local Communities

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has proposed to Government that a new Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) should be introduced in England from April 2012. The previous ALSF, through which around £20 million of aggregates levy revenue was used to support a variety of sustainability projects linked to aggregates extraction and supply, was ended by Defra in March 2011 as part of Departmental savings.

MPA recognises the financial pressures that led to this decision, but believes that there is an outstanding justification for introducing a new scheme with some critical differences from the original scheme, which is affordable and which can generate very significant sustainability benefits.

MPA is proposing a scheme with a reduced value of around £10 million per annum which will have a greater focus and be more accessible to all local communities in quarrying areas and still allow significant investment in critical areas such as Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, Heritage, Carbon Reduction, the Marine Environment and supporting the operation of the Strategic Mineral Planning System.

The key change would be that 50% of the new fund, around £5 million pa, would be available for local community projects. This represents a doubling of the £2.4 million pa of funding on average available to local communities under the previous scheme. A further £3m (30%) would also be channelled into biodiversity and nature conservation projects which would also have a predominantly ‘local’ focus.  MPA believes that this funding should be accessible to all local communities in quarrying areas and has suggested the introduction of Local Aggregates Community Trusts to manage the funding. These bodies could be set up as required and could be based on single communities, groups of communities or District or County boundaries, reflecting local wishes and circumstances and based on a national governance and probity model.

The fund would enable demonstrably successful initiatives to be supported, such as the Nature after Minerals (NAM) initiative, heritage and archaeology activity, the reduction of carbon emissions in the aggregates sector and in industry markets and the improvement in our knowledge and understanding of the marine environment. MPA would also like to ensure that there continues to be strategic management of our aggregates resources (i.e. the Managed Aggregate Supply System) and the use of ALSF funding for this purpose would remove this financial burden from Central Government while enabling all stakeholders to contribute to this process.

The new Fund would be affordable because the aggregates Levy raises around £300 - £350 million pa and Government plans to increase the Levy rate from £2.00 to £2.10 per tonne in April 2012, which will raise additional Levy revenue of at least £15 million pa.

Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive MPA, said "The original ALSF was successful in many ways, as independent research confirmed. We were greatly disappointed that Government chose to end the ALSF in March 2011 and this disappointment was shared by many local communities, conservation organisations and others who had used the ALSF for projects of both local and national importance.

“The Government’s decision has forced us to consider how the scheme could be improved and re-focussed. We believe that our proposal for a new ALSF will, critically, make the funding more accessible to any local community in a quarrying area and still enable very important work on biodiversity, for example, to be supported.

“The new scheme would be affordable, as it costs less than the planned increase in the aggregates levy next year. It also links very closely to Government's objectives of giving greater power to local communities - the cooperative approach between local people, local business, voluntary groups, NGOs and government which is at the heart of the ALSF, is the real life embodiment of the Big Society and works with the grain of the ‘Localism’ agenda.

"We have made our initial proposal to Defra and believe that it has been well received and will now be seeking to achieve general Government agreement for a new Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund along the lines we have proposed. We would welcome support from others who are keen to see the re-introduction of the ALSF with this renewed local focus."

ENDS

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