Climate change on the agenda

A new report suggesting how North Northamptonshire Council can become a green authority will be looked at tonight

By Sarah Ward

A citizens assembly, green enterprise zones and electric charging points in new housing developments, are among suggestions included in a new report for North Northamptonshire.

A group of councillors from across the area and specialist officers have been working on the recommendations that could form the climate change framework for the new North Northamptonshire Council which starts up next month.

The action plan and recommendations will go before the shadow council’s scrutiny committee tonight before being adopted (or dismissed) by the shadow unitary authority’s executive.

Included in the long list of recommendations by the working party is that the new council declares a climate change emergency as early as possible, looks into the possibility of setting up an anaerobic food digestion waste plant, incorporates green practices into its procurement policies and reduces the amount of travel it fleet and and its staff do.

The decision to set up the working party was made last autumn after a motion was put forward by Liberal Democrat councillors Chris Stanbra and Andrew Dutton.

However despite all the work done and the ten meetings held by the working party there are concerns a budget has not been apportioned to making a start on the recommendations.

The report says:

“The framework, whilst aiming to be comprehensive in its coverage, is intended to highlight those actions members felt were a priority and which should be attended to by the new Council urgently. 

“Members recognised it is not feasible or affordable to take every potential action simultaneously, and that the new Council needed to understand which actions would generate the most impact for the investment before taking decisions.”

Labour councillor for Kettering Anne Lee who was part of the working group is disappointed about the lack of budget to move forward quickly.

She said:

“When we first started the task and finish group we were told some of the proposals would be costed. That never happened.”

In order to set aside cash from day one of the new authority both the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups had put forward an amendment at last month’s budget setting meeting to set a green fund to kick start some actions. But it was voted against by the majority of the Conservative-led authority. A new budget will not be set until February next year.

Cllr Stanbra said:

“I think the Conservatives allow political dogma to get in the way of action on climate change which is a real shame.”

The topic of how the council can help tackle climate change and make its own business more environmentally friendly is of great importance to many local residents. A call out for input from the public garnered 110 responses.

The call for a Citizens Assembly is also coming from many quarters. Made up of residents from across the area the assembly would look into the issue and make recommendations to the authority.

The current situation

The borough councils of Kettering and Corby and the county council all declared a climate change emergency in 2019, with East Northants and Wellingborough choosing not to do so.

Latest data shows that between 2005 and 2018  per capita carbon emissions in North Northamptonshire reduced by 38.5 percent, slightly less than than the national average amount. Emissions have reduced most in Corby during that period.

There has also been a shift in which sector is producing the most emissions, with transport making up 42 per cent of emissions in North Northants in 2018 compared to 31 per cent in 2005. It has overtaken the industrial and commercial sector as the worst carbon polluter and the domestic emissions have stayed roughly the same during that period making up just over a quarter of total emissions.

The existing councils (which are now in their final days and will shut down at the end of this month) have taken different approaches to their climate strategy and have had different levels of success.

Corby looks to be the greenest authority of the four boroughs and districts. Measures it has adopted include moving a lot of its vehicles fleet to low emissions, working on a more energy efficient heat network for the town centre and using green energy suppliers for its buildings. It also has green wizards in each department who raise awareness of climate change.

Kettering has installed electric charging points in the town and is changing to low emission and electric vehicles in its fleet. East Northants Council has made some adjustments to its buildings to make them more energy efficient and Wellingborough has recently taken on a community health and wellbeing officer who will promote climate change awareness.

Read the report here and you can watch the meeting online here at 7pm