How is the Council doing on Climate Change and funding?

Most of your Councillors sacrifice much to serve you. But, if climate change is important to you, what’s being done, and how can you help the Council save our future?


Summary

  • The Council passed a resolution to become a net zero Greenhouse Gas emitter by 2050, on 25 June 2019. So, it now needs to make rapid progress on its Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategy to be able to achieve a June 2020 delivery date.
  • The Council is heavily reliant on its officers, professionals in the various areas of service and operation in the Borough to generate the thought, ideas and metrics that will be packaged into the strategy.
  • These officers, specialists in their own fields need deep training in Climate Change, Biodiversity and related resilience before they can adapt their areas of operation to create the strategies.
  • However, the Council is close to “bankruptcy” and, the current administration has not set aside any funds to achieve its Climate Change and Biodiversity objectives.
  • Cllr Wisdom Da Costa will be proposing two methods of raising the £15,000 needed to train the core officers being either, A. from Reserves or, B. from voluntary contributions from Councillors.
  • But is it fair to ask Councillors to contribute as, most of them are paid very little and make great, personal sacrifices to serve the Borough and residents?

 

Introduction: Funding issues and Climate Change imperatives

RBWM’s finances are in dire straits, but in medical terms, I would liken it to an acute and severe condition, which is not life threatening and can be cured quite quickly, compared to our need to address Climate Change and mass UK extinctions, which is likely to be terminal.

The Council Budget 2020/21, which contains RBWM’s spending and activity plan for this year, is being discussed on Tuesday 25 February 2020 at the Town Hall in Maidenhead and, two items on the Agenda relate to Climate Change and, our plans to address the issue; remember the Council passed a resolution to become a net zero Greenhouse Gas emitter by 2050, on 25 June 2019.

However the 2020/21 Budget proposed by the current administration includes no funding towards achieving our ambitions on Climate Change, Biodiversity or Climate Change Resilience.

By way of comparison, Cantebury City Council, is setting aside £500,000*2 for climate change and many other Councils  around £200,000*3

As Deputy Chair of the cross party Climate Change group, Chaired by Cllr Donna Stimson, to help ensure that our Borough does not miss a critical time window for action, I have two items on Tuesday’s agenda to provide some seed funding, to help ensure that RBWM’s critical Climate Change Strategy is as comprehensive, achievable, ambitious and successful as soon as possible.

 

 

we have to become experts for how to get off carbon

Proposals to empower RBWM’s abilities to achieve

A 12 year old girl, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, corralled the United Nations Plenary Session in 1992, urging rapid action on Climate Change which was apparent even then.

Reflecting on Greta Thunberg’s recent success,  Severn recently said, “As All hands on deck, focus on how we can, in our own sphere of influence, with our own skill sets, in our own industry, we have to become experts for how to get off carbon…*4

Based on my research and training, I consider a minimum of around £15,000 is needed for seed training for Council officers*from all RBWM’s departments to make them climate change and biodiversity experts in their own specialities within the Council. It is these same officers who I would expect will both create the climate change and biodiversity and climate change resilience ideas, assessment and monitoring metrics, legals, processes and timelines to achieve the three key objectives.

But time is critical and, this training has to be received in the next few months to be able to have a real impact on the strategy paper due to be presented to Council in June 2020.

But, as the Council has not included any funding for the environmental crises we are facing in its proposed budget, how can we fund this important, and time critical aspect of the project.

I have proposed two options for discussion on Tuesday evening at the Council meeting at the Town Hall in Maidenhead from 7pm.

Funding proposal 1

The first, and most realistic option is a Budget Amendment a one off charge of £15,000 from our reserves. I hope Cllr Stimson will support this proposed amendment, which has received the “nod” from our MD and, signed off by our S151 Officer. Please encourage your councillors to support this Budget Amendment

Budget Amendment Proposed

Budget 2020/21 Amendment proposed by Cllr Wisdom Da Costa

 

Funding proposal 2 – Alternative

The second option, proposed by myself and Cllr Stimson, is for a voluntary, and temporary, 3% reduction in Council Allowances, including the Special Responsibility Allowances, to provide the £15,000 needed. [As this is receiving a lot of opposition from Councillors, it is likely to fail and so, likely to be withdrawn, especially if proposal 1 is accepted by the majority of Councillors.]

 

Wording of motion

Council Motions on Notice 25 February 2020 from Cllr Wisdom

Don’t be too harsh on us.

The motion is not meant to be divisive, just a desperate attempt to move forward on the Climate and Environmental crises we are facing, so don’t be too harsh on councillors who do something you disagree with.

My colleagues, your Councillors  sacrifice much in serving you, putting in a huge amount of time, effort and devotion into their work. For many of us, it is between 20 and 60 hours per week, as well as spending our own money for training, which the Council does not supply, and dealing with residents issues – Cllr Price and Cllr Carole Da Costa recently achieved great success by visiting the directors of Radian in Eastleigh, near Southampton. Their travel costs, travel time and subsistence cost come out of their own pockets.

They and we forgo earning opportunities to pay our rent, rates and food bills.

For the work, effort, time and cost, most of the Independents and Libdems and some Conservatives receive an allowance of only £8,143.

So, don’t be too harsh on us.

But we do face an existential crisis, and a lack of financial muscle, hence my proposals.

 

 

How you can help

Please email your councilors to encourage them to support at least the first option, of the Budget Amendment

To find your councillor and his/her email address, click here https://rbwm.moderngov.co.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?FN=WARD&VW=LIST&PIC=0

 

Onwards and upwards together.

 

Cllr Wisdom Da Costa

Clewer & Dedworth West

 

Note

*1 I have also teed up 2 opportunities for RBWM, funded by DEFRA, for 2 Citizen Assemblies (with the University of Reading) and, for the development of Green Infrastructure and Blue Infrastructure Indicators (with Natural England)to help expand our engagement and, accelerate activity towards a Supplementary Planning Document.

*2 Cantebury City Council Climate Change Funding https://www.communityad.co.uk/canterbury-city-council-declares-climate-change-emergency/

*3 Council funding for Climate Change https://www.desmog.co.uk/2019/10/28/councils-commit-2m-tackle-climate-emergency\

*4 The child who tried to save the world… in 1992 https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/the-child-who-tried-to-save-the-world-in-1992/p07zxlwx?playlist=sustainable-thinking

*Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

Caveat

  • This post is part of the WWRA Councillors regular series of Blogs to inform and empower local residents; as promised in their election leaflet
  • It is also to comply with clause v of the Members Code of Conduct which states, “You must be as open as possible about your decisions and actions and the decisions and actions of your authority and should be prepared to give reasons for those decisions and actions.”
  • The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the West Windsor Residents Association (WWRA).
  • Any errors are unintentional so, I would value you bringing them to my intention so I can correct them. You can Email me cllr.dacosta@rbwm.gov.uk