West Northants Climate Plan: 'I don't think they have any idea how it will be paid for'
Can the council meet its target of being carbon neutral by 2030?
By Natalie Bloomer
A scrutiny committee is calling on West Northamptonshire Council to produce a detailed and costed plan for its climate strategy amid questions about how a carbon neutral target of 2030 will be paid for.
West Northants Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee, which met last night, has also recommended the authority take on a designated officer over a fixed five year contract to work across the issue.
The councillors have been examining the authority's draft budget with task and finish groups set up to focus on several key areas. A report from the group looking at the climate figures says:
“The Breakout Group queried whether being carbon neutral by 2030 was a realistic target; especially as it perceived that the cost of borrowing would rise. Currently, £500,000 has been put in the budget for the next three years.
“The Council has a big ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 but the Breakout Group queried that there is not a project in place to meet the ambition. It is important to have the pledge but there is not a clear steer of how much carbon the Council is omitting and the savings to be made. It needs to be ensured that the Council can be carbon neutral by 2030.”
Councillor Ian McCord who was leading the task and finish group told NN Journal the budget does not align with the council's aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.
"I've looked at the capital programme and there is nowhere near enough money in there for this. If you just take all the schools in the area, all the council offices and vehicle fleet there is a huge amount to do to meet that target. Where is the capital for that? I've got no idea how it will be paid for and I don't think they have any idea how it will be paid for.
"There's just eight years to do this. We've looked at the medium term financial forecast - that's this coming year and what they think they'll spend for the next three. That takes you up to the end of this elected term. It seems they're expecting an awful lot of heavy lifting to be done by the next administration and with fewer years to do it.
“They should be setting realistic targets, not spraying political graffiti all over the place without a proper plan. If they are serious about it, it needs to be started now."
The group Climate Action West Northamptonshire (CA-WN) is also asking for clarity over how much will be spent to meet the 2030 target. In a statement to the scrutiny committee chair of the group Jane Wood said:
"The importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation is recognised in WNC’s own corporate plan objectives, which include a Green and Clean set of priorities and a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
"December 2030 is eight years and 11 months away. I think we can all agree that meeting such an ambitious target in such a short time requires immediate and radical action. In this context, I was keen to see how WNC intends to immediately and radically use its financial resources to drive delivery of that carbon neutral target. Despite a really thorough reading of the draft budget reports I still don’t know the answer to that."
The authority’s corporate plan says “we will become the most environmentally friendly council that residents have ever had, with a clear ambition to become carbon neutral.” It pledges, among other things, to only contract with partners that are socially responsible, increase charging points across West Northants and improve recycling processes.
Last October the council held a series of mini-summits to hear from different organisations and people to help build its climate strategy.
Cllr Colin Morgan, assistant cabinet member for climate, told the scrutiny committee last night that the draft climate strategy was due to be published in January but is not yet ready.
He told the councillors that he believed a designated officer would help to push the issue forward.
Speaking to NN Journal after the meeting Jane Wood from CA-WN said:
“I think having an officer would be useful for this but my concern is that the time it could take to recruit somebody will cause further delays.
“Anything that is not done right now just leads to more of a burden in the future. I fully understand the financial pressures councils face but ‘business as usual’ will be worth nothing if we don’t fix the climate emergency.”
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